I wrote about baptism yesterday and there was some language about ‘forgiveness’ and ‘sin’ that I wanted to touch on today for a hot second.
‘Sin’ is a word that humans started using thousands of years ago and has since accumulated a lot of baggage (garbage?) along the way. It’s one of those churchey words that I once thought best to be discarded with the thee’s and thou’s of antiquated church language. But since I recently started learning more about the word, I now think it’s actually a word we need to reclaim. It’s just so good - so fitting and relevant to the modern human condition. It’s a word that seems to be… irreplaceable.
I’ll start here...
Unlike it’s modern context, ‘Sin’ doesn’t just mean ‘chocolate’ or ‘things that happen in Las Vegas’ (I mean, sin does happen while eating chocolate and while in Las Vegas, but the word isn’t limited to these ‘naughty’ things). ‘Sin’ doesn’t just mean saying God’s name in vain or breaking the Commandments (though it is present when doing those things too).
‘Sin,’ as I currently understand it, is the internal curling in on ourselves (incurvatus in se). Sin is a condition we’re all born with. There’s nothing accusatory about it - WELL, actually, it is accusatory... But it’s UNIVERSALLY accusatory which means none of us have the right to point the finger at anyone else since we’re all in this sin thing together.
We see the pervasiveness of sin in the fact that we humans can still cause tremendous harm even when we think we’re doing ‘good’. This is an extreme example, but millions of Jews were murdered in Nazi Germany, not under the direct guise of evil but a twisted vision of (Aryan) ‘goodness’.
The gist of my note to you today is this: If we’re into moral or spiritual scorekeeping/one-upping in front of a judging God, we’re totally screwed. We’re only going to kill each other as we jockey for position when in reality, none of us stand a chance in that courtroom.
This is where forgiveness comes in. Thanks to the permanence of sin, it’s impossible for us to morally or spiritually climb the ladder to justify any kind of personal purity. When we play this game, we typically end up making things worse for ourselves and everyone else. In this sense, any chance at forgiveness is beyond us.
Jesus came to end this scorekeeping…
For if keeping the law could make us right with God, then there was no need for Christ to die.
- Galatians 2:21
Striving to “keep the law” and save ourselves from sin (from our human propensity to muck things up) leads to hardened hearts. When we try to ‘do better’, we grow resentful.
But when we confess to sin, we become conscious of what we’re doing and move into the acceptance and forgiveness of God. This gives us rest and freedom to set our neighbors free.
This is the irremovable vestment that is symbolically (ontologically?) placed on us during baptism. It’s not exclusive to Christians; we’ve just happened to make a ceremony out of it. In baptism, we are washed in the waters of Christ knowing that when we do mess up, we can surrender control and allow God to restore us and make things right from a volition beyond our own.
Grace & Godspeed,