I wanna talk about a dirty word.
Yes, that old dirty word that we want to get rid of. We largely want to get rid of that word all together. Now, if you haven’t read last weeks blog I recommend you do or else you might just be angry with me talking about “sin”. Because as I said last week, words like “sin” can be a trigger word relating to a dehumanising experience in your life- a time when something hurt you or labelled you in a terrible way by using that word. Now I don’t want to minimise your experience- your experiences are real and for some readers quite painful- however I do want to shift to what the word actually means, because I believe the abuses of the use of this word shouldn’t take away it’s original meaning.But why even bother talking about the word sin (Whatever it’s definition is?)? What’s there to gain from such a discussion? Well perhaps in reading on you will connect the dots together that- if “sin” is what I am about to describe it as- then it relates to the deepest parts of our own humanity.
I want to talk about the Biblical definition of the word sin. Now I know some of you are rolling your eyes going “Oh your gonna talk about that outdated book are you?”. “What would that book have to offer for us in our modern day world?”. You see, in our world we are quite untrusting of ‘holy book’ sources because the modern world believes that we have moved beyond that ‘hocus pocus’ stuff; we have seen how years of using such books as a abusive power play that have been used to justify horrible things that have left us instantly skeptical of anything quoted from them to support anything. However despite what your personal misgivings are about the Bible might be, me and others have looked into the Biblical definition of “sin” and are seeing more and more that there is something about that word which really does confirm in our real time & space reality of what’s wrong with the world.
The Bible tells us that whilst God created this world & humanity good, we humans have screwed this world up (and consequently ourselves up as well). The “screwed this world up” bit of the story is where sin comes into the picture:
The Bible says that God made humanity in His likeness- the meaning of that phrase found in the opening chapters of the Bible has been debated, but the ancient language behind the phrase gives us the image that we are like a ‘photograph’ of God- we have that reflection of God though we ourselves are not God. And we were designed to be that ‘reflection’ of God into the world- since God is love, we are to too love others, God, and creation; since God is creative, we are to be creative beings that reflect His love and beauty into the world; since God is just, we are to live justly; since God is relational, we to are to be relational beings who seek the betterment and purpose of others; since God is selfless we too are designed to be selfless and not live to serve ourselves; since God is sustainer of the world we too are to sustain and take care of creation. However the problem though is that the Bible tells us that early on in human history, we in our free will we thought we could do the job of being human on our own terms and under our own rule. We’ll define what we mean by “good”, “love”, “relational”, “happiness”, “work” and we will run the world in rebellion against God. We gave God the finger, and went to live our own life.
Like any behaviour & social patterns that get passed down, this rebellious attitude is no different. The rebellious condition has been passed down to the generations and so what do we have in our world? War, famine, injustice, global prostitution, slavery, murder, ISIS, illegal drugs, indifferent goverments. But that’s just the ‘big’ things- on a small scale we are rude, selfish, even do good things as long as those things are meeting our needs, have false motives and intentions, turn good things like sex money and power into idols we need, don’t live even to our own standards (unless one has very low standards), we feed our addictions, turn people into objects, say we live to love as long as it doesn’t demand too much of a sacrifice for me, always looking out for number one, wanting to get my own way all the time, use things in order to met our ends, turn the blind eye, define what I think is right and wrong (and thus become so subjective that even “subjectivity” is subjective). And all of the ‘big stuff’ effects the ‘little stuff’ and at the same time the ‘little stuff’ effects the ‘big stuff’ and it all add up and create on-going issues that lead to such sicknesses like loneliness, depression, revenge, broken families and broken lives, literal death, bullying, terrorism (the list goes on), substance abuse, the perpetual addictive need to get our own way. And then all of that turns around and affects us and reinforces the cycle and we are back to square one. In other words we are all in this conglomerate mess of a world that’s messy on every level- and we are all pointing fingers at people (and sometimes we should) however we know that we are all humans in the mess we have made and we are also a victim of. We are all victims and perpetrators; some are the crushed more then they are the crushers- nonetheless we are all in the mess.
This isn’t to say there isn’t good things in this world- we are blessed with many good things, and we must remember that all things are inherently good (It’s when we take the good things like sex, or money, or power, and misuse them- they aren’t wrong just misused and thus distorted). However the stain of the mess is still everywhere. We might have technological advancement but we can use such things to make weapons of war or weapons of peace. We might get rid of evils in our world, but new and creative evils spring up from within us. And it all continues: we all affect each other and we are all affected by the very mess we have created and we too get bull dozed under the weight of terrible injustices in our own lives. The cancer of sin is in our world and has taken on a power of it’s own.
We know that injustice is wrong, we know at least at a very basic primal level that certain things and certain ways to live are dehumanising. We are rightly angry at injustice in the world, we are angry at all the dehumanising activities that occur in our world (and we should be!)- but what view of the world do we have to account for our deep down angst of the state of the world is in if we have followed a view of the world that says that we are just basically accidents with no ultimate meaning or purpose? If it’s true that, as Richard Dawkins says, that “In a universe of electrons and selfish genes, blind physical forces and genetic replication, some people are going to get hurt, other people are going to get lucky, and you won’t find any rhyme or reason in it, nor any justice” then why get angry at injustice? If injustice is false then why get angry? A common response you might say is that “It doesn’t leave to human flourishment, that’s why it feels wrong”, but as many people have realised over time it really doesn’t account for what we are feeling in a deep and profound way, for such a view only makes certain things ‘impractical’ for the human race gene, but how does it make anything ‘absolutely wrong’? The thing is, it doesn’t*. And that leads us back to square one. As Jean-Paul Sartre says: “If God does not exist…there is no longer any possibility of an a priori good existing. It is nowhere written that one must be honest or must not lie, since we are now on the plane where there are only human beings. If God does not exist, we have neither behind us nor before us a luminous realm of values, nor any means of justification of any behavior whatever”.
If your view of reality can’t account for your deep rooted feelings of injustice then either your feelings are wrong or your view of the world is wrong. If your feelings are wrong then well there really is no justice, meaning, or purpose then your feelings are deceiving you and perhaps than we shut out that voice, and then what happens? How do we live with integrity upon deeper reflection of the absurdity that is reality? Some of us say we “create own own meaning”; However our self-made meaning we create is created on shaky foundations- for the very brains we use to create meaning are themselves part of the cosmic and absurd accident and so we are back to square one.
But what if it isn’t that your feelings are wrong but that your view of reality is wrong? What if there is a God who can account for your deeply held meanings in you? To live with integrity either live as if your feelings of injustice are real and re-root it in a worldview that accounts for such feelings, or throw away the feelings and live as if justice is not an inherent truth but a figment of your misplaced feelings. It’s in the Biblical account of reality that we are told that there is a God who created a good world, but we messed it up- and it’s because of that violation of a purposed world that we feel the angst. Such a view of the world gives us a foundation for the very things that, if we haven’t blocked out the voices of our heart, we still believe.
One Christian philosopher defines evil as “a violation of purpose”. So what’s our purpose as violated? How has it all affected the world around us? We were made in His likeness, and so sin/evil is going against that purpose and commission as human beings made in His image. And so this is what sin is: missing the mark of being the human being we are as designed by God to be. And in what God designed us to be in all areas of our life- God’s designed people financially, relationally, sexually, socially, emotionally (the list goes on). Sin isn’t mere “rule breaking”- I actually hate that notion of mere “rule breaking”. Sin is much deeper- it’s that I am breaking my own design as a human being as I live in rebellion against the wise & loving designer of life itself.
And the wrongness we feel in the world all comes back to that dirty little word which is of course an unfortunate dirty and huge reality that we (If we are honest with ourselves…) we live in. It’s what wrong with the world and it’s what needs to be removed. Deep down we know that there is a power for tremendous good in us- and God designed us like this. Deep down we know the world we live in isn’t what its meant to be- that it was designed with a purpose that’s being violated, a violation we feel in our alienation and our hurt. And we deep down know that we need to be rescued into the wise and loving rule of the God who sets us free into being who we were created to be. But how are we rescued into that reality? How is sin dealt with? How does God plan to save this world? That will be next weeks blog.
*There is a discussion on the subject of the relationship between subjective and objective morality that can be discussed, but I think at this point of time it’s too much of a rabbit hole.