Trying to understand Sin
By Tom Cupka, Pastor April 2021.
To understand sin, I believe, one must first understand love. Because mortal sin is that which stands in opposition to divine love. Therefore, to recognize sin one must first know what love is meant to look like. If one does not know how to love others, one can not see their own sin by virtue of its contrast. Christ offered himself as contrast that we may have a standard or benchmark by which to assess our own fallen state – the extent to which evil has poisoned our souls.
There are an abundance of scriptures, like Psalm 107:1 and John 4:8 , that testify to us that us God is Love or that God is Good. Given that divine nature of love and goodness, obedience to God becomes a voluntary alignment with the principles inherent in living a life of righteousness, an inclination toward goodness. Whether or not such a condition or state can be perfectly achieved by any mortal is a matter of debate, for the Bible says all have sinned and only Jesus is sinless.
This has not dissuaded many though from pursuing such a condition, the attempt of which is characteristic of many monastic communities; while others surrender to the impossible and get by holding on, as we do, to the imposition of Grace by God through Christ. To live in and of Christ that we may borrow the righteousness of the Son of God and share in the inheritance of the Kingdom. Yet such a surrender to righteousness does not mean we are to also surrender to our sin. Rather we are to strive to eliminate sin from our lives.
For, sin is the corruption of love, the twisting and deforming of love. It is love less the integrity of a good foundation or framework. One could observe, that the lack of goodness to provide backbone endows a person with an uncertain nature, innocuous at times, violent, selfish, prideful at others. Therefore, to understand sin one must know how to love. Only then will they recognize those ways in which their own lives deviate from the standard.
Following our awakened state, we must then be able to admit our guilt and repent. This is more process than declaration, true humility is not rote but experienced. One does not simply say, I admit my sin for we can not admit what we can not truly see and regret. Our sins are best revealed when held up in front of righteousness, that by contrast, we may have an epiphany of the spirit, an understanding of our own errors. The “Ah ha, I messed up” moment! So there again, we must know what righteousness looks like that we may see our own unrighteousness.
Lets try an exercise, write out a list to answer: what is good, what is love or what does good look like? Write as much or as little as you like.
Here are some of mine…
Passion is an expression of love.
Making friends is an expression of love.
Making folks smile is an expression of love.
Showing concern is an expression of love.
Helping others is an expression of love.
Selflessness is an expression of love.
Charity is an expression of love.
Caring is an expression of love.
You may note that these are not characteristics perfected in me, as much as I wish they were, but rather they are a few of the characteristics revealed in the life of Christ.
Now, write out a few ways that the items in your list have been corrupted. Passion turned to abuse, friendship to bigotry and intolerance, insults instead of complements. And so on…. Where have you existed on these lists? How have you lived your life?
Some contortions of love are subtle but insidious. Others are disguised with good intentions but are just as self centered. Greed is an example of the first case. Greed is the corruption of love, it becomes the love of self as tallied through one’s possessions. In the second case, the struggle for justice could server as an illustration. While the pursuit of justice is good, such can be used to justify violence, slander, hate and oppression; it is sin in disguise. And hate for hate’s sake, in my opinion, is the absolute absence of love.
So, in conclusion there are degrees to which love is or can be damaged, manipulated, twisted and altered. We must learn to see these. We must study goodness, practice righteousness and become proficient at loving others. Not to use the understanding to think ourselves better that others, but to strive to be better than we were. Remember, we are twisted. So, lets love each other back into shape, shall we?
First thing you should know, I don’t like writing about myself. That said, I do like learning all about you. Still, you are reading this to know something of me, so here it goes…. I am a Pastor, a father of three, a husband, a son, a brother, an uncle, and a friend. I am also a lifelong learner with two masters degrees, one in Biblical Theology the other a Masters of Divinity. I served in the Indiana Army National Guard for six years, I grew up on a strawberry farm. And today, I enjoy people, goodness and peace.
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