In Christianity, ‘sin’ is kind of a buzzword. Much of the time, it is described vaguely, as if everyone already knows what it is. But I’m not so sure. What if our sins are those things we most often overlook? What if sin isn’t so obvious? I can’t help but wonder if attempts to know precisely what sin is, to define it, and to master it aren’t ways to justify the parts of ourselves we are more often than not unwilling to examine.

This emphasis on sin–and subsequently, on forgiveness from sin–reveal a strong emphasis on an exchange of economy. One party has wronged another party, whether that be God or another human being, and some sort of restitution must be made. This has inspired a lot of talk about atonement, explaining the death and resurrection of Jesus as something of an punitive transaction.

And then, we as individual ‘sinners’ are released from our debt.

Certainly this is one metaphor that has been prevalent in the history of Christian thought and even one that has some foundation in the Bible. But it is not the only metaphor. In fact, the biblical text more often describes sin as something beyond the particular short-comings of individuals. Sin is often corporate. And the answer for those sins is not so simple as forgiveness. Instead, the solution to sin is often framed in terms of liberation from exile, freedom from the oppressors, a renewed commitment to justice and equality, and living into a new way of being.

And there we find freedom.

How do you define sin? How do you define freedom?

Take some time this holiday weekend to think and join us on Sunday as we work through these difficult questions together.

5 thoughts on “Sin.

  1. You mean I have to think about sin on top of basic theology and cope with the heat too? Bummer!
    In a more serious vein, I thought about giving up entirely on sin. Especially the kind of sin that was preached in the conservative church of my childhood. But I was faced with those darn personal sins of omission (I try to take care of the committed ones right away if I recognize them) and those awful corporate sins. We can’t seem to get away from them so I am forced to forego the idea that I can ignore the idea of sin as a concept.
    At the same time, I refuse to accept the sanguinary notion that the shedding of blood can take it away and I refuse to accept the notion that every single person is born in sin.
    So what am I left with? I guess I’m going to have to take personal responsibility for myself and my actions. In this heat, that is as much as I can consider right now.

  2. A punitive transaction? So,was Jesus crucified as a punishment for His actions or as a punishment for the sins of those who would follow–as in me and you?

    1. I think his death was a political act of violence against a popular teacher considered a threat to the Roman empire. It was only later that the leaders of the new movement looked back, trying to make sense of the senseless and violent death of someone they loved so much,and, with their Jewish background stressing the need for a blood sacrifice for forgiveness of sins, said, in effect, “Oh, of course! It had to be that way. It was prophesied from way back. He was the final blood sacrifice for sin.” That way, it seemed to give his death purpose and make it easier to reconcile.
      People still do that, attempting to come to grips with losing a loved one. They say things like, “I guess God needed him more than we did.” Or something similar.

  3. More thoughts – actually, questions – about sin. These days, as I age, I seem to have far more questions than I do answers. It’s just the opposite from when I was younger. Alas, I knew so much more then! Anyway, here are some questions that I have when I consider “sin.”
    1. Given that I no longer need to expose my children to interesting places, nor do I need a respite from a challenging and tiring career, is it a sin of omission, when others are so needy, to spend considerable money on a trip simply for my own enjoyment?
    2. When does not contributing to a worthy cause and moving to “I can’t do everything to save the world” or “I have decided I’ve done all that I want to do, now” become a selfish act of omission and a sin, instead of a sensible recognition of “One can never do enough, no matter how much one does”?

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