Defining Sin

The faith tradition that I was raised in was obsessed with "sin."

I grew up being constantly reminded of all of the things that were "sinful" in the world, and what I needed to do to avoid them.  

At my Christian high school, we used to have an annual chapel service where the girls were separated from the boys for a talk about sex, lust and other assorted carnal activities.  

The girls were essentially taught that they were responsible for all of the lustful thoughts that boys might have. The boys were taught that girls were constantly out to get them, so they needed to guard themselves against their feminine wiles.  

One year, the pastor of the church that sponsored the school told all of us boys that if we had lustful thoughts we ought to get down on the floor and do push-ups until they went away. 

Among the many problems with fundamentalist Christianity is that it narrows the scope of sin, and ignores the more insidious and destructive aspects of it on the whole of life.  To define sin so narrowly cheapens God's grace, to be honest.  

Author Jonathan Merritt recently defined sin as: "...anything that robs us of the fullness of life."  

I actually love that definition.  If we are going to have conversations about sin (and I think Christians ought to) we need to be able to define it better, and this feels to me like a better way to describe it.  

So, when some fire and brimstone preacher begins to blather on and on about how "God hates sin," you can actually find yourself in agreement with that statement, even if you don't share his theology.  

Because God hates it when we life less-than lives.  

After all, God gave everything in order to rescue us from all the things that rob us from living full, abundant, complete lives--which includes rescue from narrow-minded thinking, misogyny, intolerance, bigotry, hatred of those who disagree with us, abuse of our bodies as well as addictions of all kinds, including sex.  

Beloved, live a full life today and every day going forward.  Know that God wants you to be free from sin, and the way it saps you of your joy and hope.  

May the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you now and always. Amen.  


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