So at our baptism service last night, we had a sermon on sin. Which is sort of central to Christian teaching. I do realize that. How we should take it seriously and repent of it and… try harder.
All of which I believe in.
I mean, I believe that we should take sin seriously, but I also believe we tend to get riled up over the least important sins and tend to be most proud of the least important virtues.
I believe we should repent of sin, but I also believe most of us have confused repentance with self-loathing and shame.
I believe we should try harder… sometimes. On the other hand, I’m pretty sure Jesus said he was here to give us rest not programs for self-improvement.
Call it the express train to heresy, but I’m tired of hearing Christians tell me that people fall into sin because they’re lured by the excitement and glamour. That sin is DELICIOUS and oh-so fun.
The thing about that belief is that you have to narrow your definition of sin down to, I dunno, particular forms of lust maybe before that theory makes any sense. I could be wrong, but I can’t think of anything SUPER glamorous about envying your neighbor’s salary raise. In my experience, envy happens when you’re feeling insecure about yourself, and it’s never a fun experience. And who goes cruising through their day and thinks: you know what would make this day REALLY fun? Berating my coworkers in a fit of rage! Awesome! Can’t wait to get started on that!
I don’t know anybody who sins because it’s fun. People seem to sin because they’re trying to figure their lives out, trying to protect themselves, trying to meet their needs. People steal because they think material things will make them feel better. People lie because they desperately want to be liked—or at least envied. People wound others because they are wounded. People fall into addictions because it’s the only thing that “fixes”—or at least masks—their pain.
So when we insist that people are sinning because they’re weak-willed folk addicted to the pleasures of this world, you know what that’s called, right? That’s called shaming people.
Religious folks are really good at shaming people.
People who are, in my experience, generally pretty reasonable, pretty likable, and trying pretty hard to be “good.” Whatever their creed, the majority of people I’ve met actually want to be good, to be safe, and to be at peace. And sin is incredibly logical. Sin is incredibly normal. Sin is anything that separates us from God, so sin is nothing more colorful or titillating than trying to figure life out apart from God.
That’s so boring, right?
The problem is we’ve spent so much time as a church trying to reference and prioritize and cross-index sins that we’ve ended up splitting the sin atom—divorcing the behavior from the state of being—and focusing exclusively on the behaviors as the real problem.
I mean, sure. Keep an eye on your behaviors. Be aware. That’s all good.
But the idea that we can fix our sin problems by self-denial or willpower or a program of serious Bible study is sort of ridiculous in my opinion. Not to mention short-sighted and doomed to failure, since most people are sinning in order to fulfill their legitimate needs and will go on sinning until they find a better solution to getting their needs met.
The best willpower can ever do for you is buy you some time to realize that your real problem isn’t that XYZ looks super fun, it’s that need U isn’t being met and you don’t believe God cares enough or trust him to actually do anything about it so that means XYZ is now your best option for meeting need U.
Like I said, maybe that’s heretical.
I don’t know.
But I’ve had to spend years trying to detox my soul from all the shaming stuff that goes down in Christendom, and it blows me away that otherwise insightful people still imagine the real problem with the church is that we don’t take sin seriously enough.
Are you kidding me?
Being obsessed with identifying or condemning sin is no more healthy than pretending it doesn’t exist and hedging whenever the question arises. They’re two sides of the same coin.
They are both works-based programs designed to make us look better.
Thanks, but no thanks.
I’m pretty sure if the church wants to have any influence in the world today it doesn’t need to take sin more seriously. It needs to take grace and compassion more seriously.
Call me crazy.