Sunday, June 20, 2010

The Reality and Insanity of Sin

Sin. Hell. They are such ugly words.  Unfortunately, they are words that have largely made their way out of our vocabulary as Christians.  I say "unfortunately" because they are a very necessary part of our dialogue about who we are as people, why we need a savior, and the final reality of where we will spend eternity after the chapter of our life on this earth has been closed.

First, let's reflect on the nature of sin.  Sin, by definition, is an offense against God, a "missing the mark" if you will.  I'll spare the recap of Adam and Even and the Fall (although it doesn't hurt to read back through Genesis 3 once in a while).  Suffice it to say that Adam and Eve chose to sin; it was not some otherworldy curse of human existence that God inflicted upon them.  He put the choice before them, yes; otherwise there would have been no opportunity for them to demonstrate their love for him through their obedience.  But the action of choosing their own will and placing it above God's commandment, at the behest of the evil one--the serpent--was their own.  They chose to put themselves before God, and in doing so opened the door for sin and death to enter the world.

Fast-forward to today.  The same choice is placed before each of us numerous times daily, where we have the choice to obey the commands of a loving Father who knows far better than we do what is best for us, or to ignore that infinite love and choose instead what best suits us for the moment.  Regrettably, we choose every day--and multiple times--to follow in the legacy of our parents.  The reality of sin, along with its consequences of death and eternal separation from God, remain.  We, living in the shadow of the fall and left to our own devices, would be in a very sad state of affairs.

Sin is very real, and you'd better believe Satan is just as hard at work in the world today as he was in the Garden.  He's just as good today at convincing us that we can make the rules for ourselves.  It's not a pleasant thought, but the consequence of ignoring and refusing to face the reality is even worse.  If we refuse to acknowledge the stranglehold that sin and death in their many forms have on humanity, then we also refuse to acknowledge the necessity of Christ, who through his obedient and sinless life reversed our choice to put self-will before the will of God, and in suffering and dying satisfied the "wages of sin."  As St. Paul put it so well in his Letter to the Philippians:
Have among yourselves the same attitude that is also yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God something to be grasped.  Rather, he emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, coming in human likeness; and found human in appearance, he humbled himself, becoming obedient to death, even death on a cross.  Because of this, God greatly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, of those in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Philippians 2:5-11, NAB)
In Baptism, we are given the gift and privilege of taking on his name, of calling ourselves Christians.  We are given full share in the gift of his death and the glory of his Resurrection, and look forward to the day when we might share fully in the glory and love of eternal life with him.  Being invited to be a co-heir with Christ (cf Romans 8:16-17) sounds like a pretty good gift to me.  In fact, I can't imagine a better gift than that, perhaps because there isn't one.
It can only work if we first acknowledge the reality of our own sin, confess it, and repent from it.  Without the ongoing confession and repentance, and the obedience that necessarily follows, our hearts cannot be open to receive the gift.  It's not that it ceases to be offered, it's that we literally push it back at Christ, slam the door in his face with a "no thanks pal," continue to try to make the rules for ourselves, and forfeit our inheritance of eternal life for the muck of sin, death, and eternal separation from him who is Goodness and Truth.  I don't know about you, but to me that choice sounds pretty insane.


  1. AMEN and AMEN! Who is it that said, "If you don't believe in Satan, it won't be long until you don't believe in God." You're right- sin and hell are two ugly, scary, politically incorrect words these days, but we must face the reality of them, repent and live the Gospel.

    Thanks for this great reflection.

  2. And you're dangerously close to becoming just like Frank Sheed! :) His book's title, Theology and Sanity, is based upon the fact that if you don't see the world as it truly is (being upheld at every moment by God), than you cannot be sane. Seems the same is true for sin!