The sermon our priest gave on Sunday was what I think of as “one of those” sermons. It was about everyone’s favorite topic: the evils of sin. He delivered it with a, “what’s wrong with you?” sort of tone. He made a list of sins that I suppose where on his mind that day: contraceptives, abortion, drugs, pornography, and sodomy. You might notice that four of the five have to do with sex in some way. This seems about to be typical attitude of preachers toward sin. A list of little naughty behaviors we should be ashamed of. Either that or it’s the real fire and brimstone sort of message. Both miss the mark.
There is one question I think we need to address in the Church. What is sin? It’s hard to fix a problem when we don’t know what is really wrong. We must have a proper definition of what sin is. Most people’s idea of sin is disobedience. Doing things that God says we are not supposed to do. I think that is a horrible definition. It diagnoses the symptoms, not the disease. The real problem is separation. Sin is separation from God. Period.
Most people have the idea that if they are moral, that is they don’t sin, then God will love them. That’s putting the cart in front of the horse. God is the horse and we are the cart. We follow Him. If we put our relationship first we will find that God loves us, and then morality will follow almost completely naturally. Oh there will still be a couple of hang ups that you will have to suffer with, think of St. Paul’s thorn that he begged God to remove. What did God say? He said no, my grace is enough. Why do I bring this up? It proves to me that God doesn’t want us “perfect,” He wants us to depend on Him.
How different might the world be if we had been taught that lesson from the beginning? Don’t worry about sin, just put God first, get as close to Him as you can, and watch everything else fall into place. We might have missed out on a few persecutions and some witch hunts.
The problem seems to be that we want to be in control. When we make sin a moral issue, something that we can fix ourselves, we keep ourselves in the driver’s seat. If sin is just a bad behavior then we can point to others, judge and condemn them, (I’m sorry, that would be wrong, we Christians call it admonishing, not judging) and feel just fine about it. That is not what Christ teaches.
Sin is a state of separation from God. Yes separated people do stupid things, but again, that’s just a symptom of the real disease. Jesus came to save us from our sin. He came to reconnect us to Himself. That’s the literal meaning of the word religion, to reconnect with God. So let us stop beating each other, and ourselves, up over bad behavior, and start building relationships.