I wrote this a while ago – but it still makes a lot of sense to me. This is the first of an occasional series on the big Christian themes.
I get uneasy when we are asked to bewail our sins. I get irritated about the assumption of wretchedness and taking the blame for it. But I think the way we think about this, maybe the way it is presented, is wrong. The Bible is more nuanced. On the one hand sin is our fault, on the other it is something we cannot help. The requirement on us is that we take responsibility, not that we wallow in blame. And what is sin? It is the state of being asleep and the things we do whilst we are asleep. We are actually quite logical creatures. What we call sinful behaviour is a pretty logical reaction to a world that is as we usually assume it is – threatening, insecure, likely to take what we have. Therefore I will do my best to make sure I get as much as possible. We believe we need things – so we get them, hang on to them. Jesus says, ‘You don’t need them. The world is not what you think it is. Your well-being, your identity, is not dependent on these things. You have everything you need’. The Gospels are about waking up – the Kingdom of God is here. The world is different. Change your beliefs – not your doctrine, not some system – but your basic outlook. The faith required is not faith in a historical event or a formula, but a different mindset. It is opening your eyes, it is light in a dark room.
If we could do this all the time we wouldn’t do wrong, but of course, our fears kick in, the ‘world’ weighs on us, we lapse a lot of the time. Sin is what we do when we do not see clearly. Sin is what we do when we are unhappy. We cannot help it, but we must accept responsibility for it. And what is it? Rarely a deliberate evil. Nothing spectacular. Usually a lack of love. Because love is what we tune into when we wake up and stop worrying about what we have or haven’t got, are or aren’t. So focusing on sin can be counter-productive as it puts the attention on our ‘deficiencies’. It can lead us to struggle with them – mostly a hopeless task. Or feel bad about them. That is useless. We’d do better to simply accept them and focus on waking up. Feeling bad is a waste of time and very unlikely to help.
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