"Your life is an occasion. Rise to it!" - Mr. Magorium

Thursday, June 11, 2009

What's a Sin?

I believe what causes many people to shy away from religion is the guilt associated with sin. (And the first thing most people think of when they hear the word sin is sex). However, the original meaning of the Greek word "sin" (translated from the Hebrew "het") was "to err", or "to miss the mark". In its original usage, it referred to behaviors that that needed to be abandoned in order to attain a Christian lifestyle. The idea of eternal damnation came along later. But can you imagine an archer being damned eternally because he shot at the target and missed the bullseye? I don't believe that a God who is Love could treat his children that way.

In his lecture "Why Healing Spiritually is Crucial", Christian Science lecturer Ron Ballard points out that God's love for us is unconditional, and unconditional means we don't have to deserve it for the giver to give it. This is in keeping with Jesus saying, "Fear not, little flock; for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom." (Luke 12:32)

What's confusing to people is that the Bible, and for that matter Mary Baker Eddy in her writings, talks about sin being punished. But if God loves us then what is the source of the punishment?

For an answer we turn to Jesus parable of the prodigal son, found in the book of Luke, chapter 15. The prodigal, the younger of two sons, went to his father and said in essence that he didn't want to wait until is father was dead; he wanted his inheritance now. The loving father gave it to him and the prodigal took off for another country, where he promptly wasted his inheritance on "riotous living". When he was broke and going hungry, he figured out that if he'd stayed home with his father he'd he wouldn't be hungry and homeless. So he went home with the idea that he'd ask his father to hire him as a servant, and at least he wouldn't go hungry. But, as you probably know, his father took him back and forgave him. Through this parable Jesus illustraited God's love for us.

It wasn't the father that made the prodigal go hungry. It was his own foolish, selfish behavior. But he went hungry until he returned to the father.

In Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, Mary Baker Eddy wrote repeatedly about the "belief in sin". On page 497 she gives as one of the tenants of Christian Science, "We acknowledge God's forgiveness of sin in the destruction of sin and the spiritual understanding that casts out evil as unreal. But the belief in sin is punished so long as the belief lasts."

In an online discussion (where I use a screen alias), someone asked what the source of the punishment was if it wasn't God. I responded by saying, "The belief in playing in a cactus patch is punished so long as one plays in the cactus patch... but God never made the cactus patch, so he's not responsible for the thorns.

More tomorrow...

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