Pastor's Blog

Each week I re-read the blog I wrote the previous week so that my topics will flow and each week I find that I use terms that need to be defined and clarified – especially with theological terms.  This week I want to talk about “sin”.

I believe when most people hear the word “sin” they think of “crime” – someone breaking a law.  And that is certainly ONE meaning of the term (1 John 3.4 – “sin is lawlessness”).  But “sin” is also the term that we use to refer to that aspect of our internal human nature that doesn’t want to do things God’s way – that “bent” toward disobedience or disrespect toward any authority.  It’s the thing inside of us that, when we see a sign that says “Do not touch”, encourages us to touch.

I think this is one of the points people where struggle in their understanding of Christianity.  What’s the big deal about touching something when the sign says “Do not touch” – or walking on the grass when the sign says “Keep off the grass”?  No one is hurt.  No one dies.  So why get worked up about it? 

In one of my first theology classes in Bible college the professor termed Adam and Eve eating a piece of fruit “rebellion against God”.  I felt “rebellion” was WAY too strong a term and raised my hand to tell him so.  Adam and Eve had been deceived (at least EVE had) and the couple certainly disobeyed, but to call it “rebellion” seemed over the top.  I was a child of the Sixties so “rebellion” painted pictures of lines of policemen in riot gear, behind shields, night sticks drawn amidst clouds of tear gas, pushing forward toward lines of angry screaming people who were throwing rocks and bottles at the police – not someone eating a piece of fruit that they were told not to.

My picture of “rebellion” was not incorrect.  But I learned that there is more than one way to use that term (and other terms).

Christian theology zooms in on the working of the heart.  “Rebellion” and “sin” don’t HAVE TO BE enormous criminal enterprises.  At root they are miniscule departures, tiny and sometimes almost imperceptible aberrations – things we would NEVER give a second thought to, things we would never worry about – things about which we would say “No harm, no foul”.

If you have a straight line and a second line diverging from it (as in the picture at left), the divergence is small initially.  But the further out those lines are drawn, the greater the divergence will become.  When I used the word “rebellion” in Bible college, I was thinking of the divergence several miles down that line.  But Christian teaching is interested in that initial divergence.  That the divergence is almost imperceptible is irrelevant.  The problem is that it is a divergence, and any divergence from a perfect standard is problematic -- a "rebellion", as it were.

God’s command to abstain from the fruit is the straight line.  Adam and Eve’s decision to eat is the divergence.  The first couple’s eating the fruit is “rebellion” in the sense that it is the first divergence from the ideal – the place where departure from the norm or the ideal begins.  The size of the departure is irrelevant;  the fact that it exists is all that matters.

Christianity is interested in that POINT of divergence because that’s the root of human problems.  That’s where an understanding of everything from elementary school playground disputes to divorce, to people throwing rocks and bottles at lines of police in riot gear is to be found.

That tiny divergence where that line first breaks off from God’s perfection is what we’re talking about when we talk about “sin”.

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