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What’s a Sin? February 16, 2006

Posted by fajita in Uncategorized.
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Note to readers: This is the article that will appear in the Jonesboro Sun on Saturday. Contained within its context is a reference to a local issue. Craighead Cournty is a dry county (no alcohol sales) that allows a few restuarants to serve alcohol with a “private club license.” Outback Steakhouse just received one such license and the Baptists are ticked.

So, I was talking to a very intelligent person the other day, and this person asked me, ďWhatís a sin?Ē The question was simple, honest, and carried lots of weight. The answer, however, was not as simple as the question.

The fact that I think the answer is not simple might surprise you. People know a sin when they see it, right? Well, not so fast cowboy. Of course random and pointless murder is a sin – sure, we agree on that. But letís look at sin another way. There are some people who wonít step foot in a local steakhouse these days because it has just become a den of iniquity for gaining a liquor license. With these people I diverge on the definition of sin, thus bouncing us back into uncertainty on agreeing about what sin is.

But letís dive a little deeper into sin (never thought I would say that). Sin is almost always dealt with on a behavioral level Ė on the surface. It is easy to understand why people do this. Behaviors are easy to quantify, measure, and place on a chart or next to someoneís morality or theology. Behaviors are also easy to observe in someone else. So, behavioral ďsinĒ becomes evidence that justifies one personís judgment of another. Behaviors can become the hard facts through which political and religious (or a sick hybrid of the two) agendas are fueled.

Deeper is the level of motivation for the sin act than the act itself. What is the energy that made the behavior possible? Now we are getting somewhere. If I head out to the music store at the mall and lift the latest U2 cd and leave without paying, that is a sin. But is that where the started? Nope! What was it about me that would get me to do that? Could be greed. Could be laziness. Could be that I think the owner of the store is a jerk and wanted to make her pay. Maybe I think Bono is a putz and political hack and I wanted to make him pay. It could be anything.

Thatís the level that matters most. Merely focusing on the behavior does not impact the motivation, and therefore the sin remains. However, focusing on the motivation will have a ripple effect to the behaviors and both sins are addressed. So, itís as easy as that, right?

Wrong. It gets even more complicated and nuanced. Some people are going to believe that since the motivation itself is sinful, then any want, desire, attraction, passion, or anything that can be considered enjoyable, fun, or pleasurable in any way is sin. Again, not necessarily so.

The fact that I want that U2 cd, or donít like the music store owner, or like to get a rush by taking risks Ė is any of that a sin? Well, is it? I know, I know Ė it depends. But what does it depend upon?

Our feelings, no matter how strong they are, are just feelings. What we do with our feelings is another matter. The intricate, subtle, and nuanced processes we each press our feelings through will determine if sin develops.

For example, suppose I really like U2ís cd, but I take that feeling and press it through envy. From that point on, it does not matter if I buy it or steal it, Iíve sinned. If envy is my internal response to liking something, then sin is already there. Please understand that this is a different process than temptation. Temptation comes looking for me. What I am talking about is what internal process I go through in response to my own feelings.

A different internal response to my liking the U2 cd is pressing that feeling through respect. With respect I realize that every level of the music industry from producers, to performers, to manufacturers, to distributors work hard to get their products to a place where I can access them. The artistís very heart is poured into this product and I get a benefit from that sacrifice. So I save my pennies in anticipation of enjoying the music with a clean conscience.

You see, it all begins and ends the same. It begins with the fact that I want the cd and ends with the fact that I have it. Neither of those is sinful. However, it is everything that happens between that makes all the difference.

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Comments»

1. Bek - February 16, 2006

great post. how inconvenient that we can’t really see what goes on in the heart. therefore we judge on what we see, which isn’t the full picture….

2. James - February 16, 2006

I agree, good article.

3. Clarissa - February 19, 2006

So what did you say to the person?

4. Justin - February 22, 2006

its been almost a week. I’m waiting axiously for another post Chris

5. Shump - February 22, 2006

Does this mean I can go eat at Outback?

6. Fajita - February 23, 2006

Shump can go to Outback, but the more important issue is why he’ll go there.

Also, my response to the person’s question of sin was really a conversation like the blog post read. We went quite a bit deeper than merely behaviors.


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