Let’s start with a quote that could come from some classic book about Christianity of the sort that should be read by everyone, but in fact just is stolen from a blogcomment by the ever incredible Scott Morizot, on Sarah Moons blog. (The context is a discussion about premarital sex, but I’m not going into that now)
The modern church has largely lost sight of the deeper understanding of the ancient church. The physical passions, lust, gluttony, and the rest can be very destructive, but they are the lesser passions. Greed, anger, hatred, bitterness. Those passions form us into subhuman beings and are more dangerous for most people in the long run.
I think this is really important stuff. We shouldn’t put our main focus on outward sins like a lot of Christian moralists do, but on the structural sins that reside in our heart. We should not fight symtoms, but cut to the core of the problem. And the problem of sin is much deeper than breaking a law and doing what we shouldn’t do:
Sin” in the Christian sense does not mean breaking a law or violating ritual cleanliness. The closest meaning would be ‘missing the mark’ and the ‘mark’ for Christians, as I understand it, is always Christ. Communion with Christ. Forming Christ in ourselves. Being Christ to others.
This is something I’ve been thinking about, since I’ve reread Scot McKnight’s ‘the Jesus creed‘, I’ve very clumsily started to at random times recite to myself the “Jesus Creed”, or Jesus adaptation of the Shema that we mostly know as ‘the great commandment’, and wondering if I do indeed in any way even try to live up to that. Which can be a really confronting exercise!
The first of all the commandments is, Hear, O Israel; The Lord our God is one Lord:
And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment.
And the second is like, namely this, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. There is none other commandment greater than these.
Christ, From Mark 12
First comment here is that loving God is something strange, but I do believe that it means to know God, a personal relationship with God. If we believe that in the afterlife we’re going to be with Him without end, then it’s worth trying to get to know Him in this life too, isn’t it?
Another comment: If the law is summed up in “love God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength, and love your fellow human as yourself”, then this must be the first thing to which we turn to see whether something is sin, even if we take the definition of sin as law-breaking. Everything that hinders us in growing this double love of God and neigbor in any way is ‘sin’. And the most dangerous sins here would be indeed things like greed, anger, hatred and bitterness. Which is scary sometimes to realise, for example if we consider that our economy does run on greed, when, like Paul says, love of money is the root of all evil…
If we allow those things to grow in our lives, they will hinder love, and in the end make it impossible. And if love is really impossible, we indeed become ‘sub-human’, we become a child of darkness that will never be able to endure the light. Which is a very scary definition of hell which I did encounter in orthodox thought: for the lost soul eternity with God IS hell, an all-consuming fire…
those are just thoughts that are incomplete; so all comments are welcome!