Where This Meets That
Ever since my recent post about the Christian Chicken Crusade, I have been reflecting more about the role of sin in our world.
According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church,
“Sin is an offense against reason, truth, and right conscience; it is failure in genuine love for God and neighbor caused by a perverse attachment to certain goods. It wounds the nature of man and injures human solidarity. . . . Sin is an offense against God . . . [setting] itself against God’s love for us and [turning] our hearts away from it. Like the first sin, it is disobedience, a revolt against God through the will to become ‘like gods’ knowing and determining good and evil. Sin is thus ‘love of oneself even to contempt of God.'” (1849-1850)
That’s a good starting point, but what then?
I firmly believe that free will is, along with life itself, God’s greatest blessing and one he means us to use. Without free will, what is God but a tyrant? And what better is he by giving us free will while daring us to use it by threat of eternal damnation?
Knowing what he knows, God knew what free will would mean when he created us as free creatures. Why then create us at all, if we were all going to choose hell anyway? What kind of God does that make?
These are questions frequently (and loudly) asked by non-believers and therefore questions that imperfect believers like myself must thoughtfully and prayerfully consider.
Without sin, there is no redemption, and redemption is a glorious thing! Jesus himself emphasizes, “there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous people who have no need of repentance.” (Luke 15:7)
But for the love of God, redemption does not make any one of us better than anyone else! The truly redeemed know that. Redemption, at barest of minimums, teaches us to relate better and to love more.
We all sin. Plain and simple. You’ve done it, probably while reading these sentences, as I have while writing them. Sin is the self-driven animal component of our human being. Closely associated with pain, sin is likewise a teacher. But what is “the lesson”? The lesson (and the blessing) of sin is humility in relationship, otherwise known as love.
Sin is a humbling agent for understanding. Its universality allows us opportunity for deep relationship with our fellow brothers and sisters across earth and age. When we learn the rich, Christian lesson that sin has to offer us, how can we not recognize it as the branch of free will that leads not to our damnation but our redemption?
When Jesus is asked to name the most important commandment, he includes in his response to, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” (Matthew 22:39) Naturally, you can’t know your neighbor as you know yourself; nor can he know you that well. You know your deepest, darkest sins and their contexts; oh, we can always justify ourselves, even while we condemn others. But if we can be honest about our weakness, then we can see in others that same weakness, instead of our knee-jerk charge of malevolence or ignorance, and for that weakness we can love them.
I recently read something from Christian comedian Mark Lowry that stated it very well. Lowry said, “Love the sinner, hate the sin? How about: Love the sinner, hate your own sin! I don’t have time to hate your sin. There are too many of you! Hating my sin is a full-time job. . . . How about you hate your sin, I’ll hate my sin, and let’s just love each other!”