OK. Don’s outta town, I think. He invited me to contribute some thoughts to the Sin-blog. I’m not sure what I bring to the table (I worry that this only implies that he thinks I’m “extra-familiar” with sin) but I’m happy to be part of the dialogue nonetheless. Ever since this talk started I’ve discovered how little I actually know. I don’t yet have a healthy enough understanding of sin. What to do?
There’s the old Cherokee folk tale of the young tribesman that asks his mentor “How did you carve the canoe from that tree?” His trainer replied “I just cut away everything that was not a canoe.” I’m starting in a similar mindset. If I can’t say what sin is, I can at least hope to narrow down what it’s not. I’ll likely post a few ponderings in this perspective for a while and I hope you’ll help me banter. Here’s my first thing that sin is not (it seems like a no-brainer but I have to start somewhere right?)…
1. Sin is not easily defined- I love words. I’m even a word-aholic, so I’m especially disabled by the expectations of modern language. Sin’s evasive from the get-go. We have a comfort zone of how definitions work. We like short, concise, measurable terms that limit a subject from being anything else. We’re very closed minded when taken out of this haven.
But, sin is mobile. Our prism of view needs to be ever-moving, yet we want it to sit still while we gaze. It’s like we’re trying to film a movie with a still photographer’s equipment. Sin’s both noun and verb. It is and it does. It’s a state and an action. This duality is much like “Love” and you can see how well we’ve accomplished defining that. In fact, we’re obsessed with Love and still fail to find comfort in allowing it to transcend our limitations of language. Sin’s a less than desirable subject, so we under-define it all the more.
As anti-God, sin’s also incalculable. Our words can’t capture the magnitude of infinities. There is not always a lowest common denominator in spiritual definition. Our inability to sum up forces beyond our vision is rivaled only by our ego-driven surety that we should still try to limit what things are, so that we can better control them.
Google the “Definition of sin” until you get a satisfactory short answer…I’ll wait (no, I won’t). I tried it. I kid you not, this was one of them;
Main Entry: sin
: to commit a sin
Sin is defined here as, ummm….yup….”sin.”
Another search turned this gem up; “To violate a moral or religious rule.” I was unfortunately most able to relate to this one. It actually portrays my relationship with sin throughout my 30 years of God-chasing. I reduced a most prominent affecter of my most important relationship to this un-biblical nugget. I think I allowed Webster and modern tradition to define part of my spiritual view. Regretful. Can you relate to this?
I think it’s time that we expand our scope. Sin may not be definable in a comfortable and limited way for us, but it is certainly something that affects, distracts, hinders and harms us all. It is a barrier to our achieving Gods loving intent. It’s often a tool that we use against each other or an obsession that we try to face alone. It’s an inducer of guilt, shame, pain and finality. It’s the cause of death even (James 1:15, Romans 6:23).
Sorry Webster, you gotta go. It’s strictly scripture time now. Can we accept that our answer may never be fulfilling or complete? Does that make our search for answers moot? Why should we try to understand sin more? What does the answer mean to us? How come Webster re-runs are never on TVLand? That kid had a bigger vocabulary than they let him showcase on his sitcom….