SIN

We believe that human beings are a fundamentally good creation and sin is anything that keeps us from communion with God, others and our true selves; anything that distances us from God’s mercy or causes alienation. Our understanding of Sin, Grace, Redemption, is called Soteriology and is a rich field of study that is never really ‘complete.’ But here is one understanding of sin for your consideration…

One of the questions that almost immediately arises in such discussion is how and why we would ever proport that our perfect newborn babies carry with them “original sin” before being baptized?

Theologian Donald Goergen proposes one way of thinking question by considering sin in four “stages.”

In the first stage (Victimization), we are victims of our circumstances and surroundings because we are we are born a good creation into a troubled and sinful world. Just like the old saying “you are what you eat,” similarly each person is a product of his/her environment; an environment that we can’t escape. No one can choose to be born somewhere else, like Mars or the moon. We all are born into this global culture and are a product of what we see, hear, taste, touch and feel. It is this stage that most closely defines what we mean when we speak of ‘original sin.’  It simply means each of us was born into this world…

In the second stage (Internalization) we begin to internalize that which we are learning, for good or for bad. Eventually, we begin to believe what we inherit. All the bad patterns and damaging beliefs (and the good ones) of our parents, families and the pervading culture become our own. If our families and culture are plagued with things like shame, pride, consumerism, racism, sexism, addictions, we are much more likely to inherit these characteristics ourselves.

In the third stage (Manifestation) we begin to manifest what we have internalized. What we believe ultimately makes its way into our behavior. At this stage we begin exhibiting outwards signs of our internal, inherited reality. We begin to BE that which we have been molded into by our families and cultures.

It’s important to note, that at this stage we may not even be aware that our behavior is sinful because it is all we know; it’s what we have been taught. Nonetheless we have become contributors to the disorder in the world; we are products and now propagators of the sin that is present in our world.

Only the fourth level can be called “Personal, Conscious Sin.” At this stage we become aware that what we have inherited is less than acceptable and that we, with our sinful behavior, are contributing to the sin that permeates our world.

As St. Paul says we finally realize that rather than “practicing what I {would} like to {do,} I am doing the very thing I hate.” (Romans 7:15)  But, by now, it’s often too late to overcome by our own willpower all that has been engrained in us; our patterns are all but cemented in place. So, by the time we become aware of our sinfulness, we are already captives of it; we are addicts, in a sense. And this is when we know we need the grace of God to live.

We believe Jesus conquered sin through his life and death and bestowed on us the great, gratuitous gift of God’s grace which makes us whole and restores us to our best selves as God intended us to be.  Though we may always struggle with sin, given our surroundings, we know that there is no sin that is bigger than God’s love and mercy.   

I read somewhere recently that Jesus prayed for us as we nailed him to the cross and told the thief beside him, who made no formal statement of repentence, that he would see him in paradise. I think we can relax. It’s all going to be okay. God IS mercy. 

Phew…

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