Let's Talk About Sex
Actually, today I would like to spend some time talking about sin, but I got you to read further, didn't I?
Some of you probably paused for a second and debated reading beyond that first line, didn't you? And the reason you did is almost assuredly because, like me, you have some baggage when it comes to conversations about sin.
I have my own set of baggage when it comes to these things---well travelled baggage, in fact. And this baggage has stolen my joy more than a few times.
I think a lot of Christians lead pretty joyless lives precisely because they have some wrong-headed notions about sin. They were taught somewhere (in church, most likely) that sins could be defined, classified and listed so that you knew what not to do.
And as soon as you knew what not to do, you could steer clear of those things and everything would be fine and dandy.
But what is "sin" exactly? Is it simply doing things that are wrong? Committing an act that offends the Almighty? Straying outside the rules and regulations of a religious community?
The dictionary definition of the English word sin goes something like this: an act regarded as a serious or regrettable fault, offense, or omission. It has it's origins in the old English word synne, which is connected to the Latin word sons, which essentially means "guilt."
But the most common word for sin in the New Testament is actually hamartia, which means "to miss the mark," or "to fall short." It seems that there is more going on in the Scripture than our English translations reveal.
To that end, theologian Stanley Hauerwas has a powerful and pointed way of addressing the reality of sin--not as a violation of one or more things on a long list prohibitions but as "the active and willful attempt to overreach our powers."
Sin, according to Hauerwas, "...is the attempt to live as if we are or can be the authors of our own stories." This lands on Christians pretty hard. We might be able to avoid all of the things on our list of sins, but none of that matters if we aren't addressing what's really going on.
In other words, every single time I decide that I can control my own destiny, pull myself up by my own bootstraps or go it alone on my own steam is a moment when I am believing that old lie of the Deceiver from Adam & Eve story in the book of Genesis---when he whispers in that smooth and snaky whisper, "You don't need God... You got this all on your own..."
Today may you begin to find new ways to think about those old paradigms of faith that you may have been handed long ago. May you see more clearly how relying on God, desiring God, drawing closer to God keeps you from the destructive path of isolation, pride and self-reliance.
And may the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you now and always. Amen.