What is sin?

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Is perhaps, for me, now the most irrelevant question to debate.

We have The Law and the Old Covenant.  We have The Cross and the New Covenant.  We have this Book and that Book.  We have the Scales of This and by the Grace of That.  We have prayers of intercession and repentance.  We have The Garden and our unworthy impregnated genes ever since.  We had the ability to NOT sin taken from us (allegedly) … and if that isn’t enough – we make  the ability to Love (without condition) part of the sin package – so make the ability to Love (without condition) also beyond our wherewithal.

In fact – if I was to believe all the religious teachings I have been taught – I would think myself stripped and neutered of our Creator’s intended template and very much faulty-goods.

I used to think that.

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But then I got to thinking.

Why do we excuse ourselves … ?  Why is it that Love (without condition) is the remit only of God and not me … ?  Why must I wait until I die before I experience/become Love Without Condition … ?  And it’s all because of what I was taught.

So either I was unlucky and had a load of false teachers – or The Teaching I got has the seal of approval from God.

It can’t be both.

But more than that – I got to thinking that Sin is the fuel on which religions and faiths (of all creeds and colours) run …
* All require me to be indebted to a God.
* All require me to seek forgiveness (on a regular basis).
* All demand my obedience and sacrifice.
* All promise – in return – that I will live for ever.
* And all because of Sin.

Take away Sin and there is no reason for all the embedded/correct transactions and conditions.  But keep Sin embedded/accepted … and Love (without condition) becomes unattainable because of Sin.  Because “Love (without condition)” I was taught requires no Sin.  And as we are all “sinners” (I was taught) I cannot Love (without condition).  Catch-22 (or biblically correct).

Now call me unqualified in God, but the God I know hasn’t a bad bone in his vaporous body …

I haven’t been baptised … I don’t pray (in the taught way) a great deal … I am known to use the odd swear word or three … I am not perfect but neither am I imperfect BECAUSE of sin … I am “imperfect” because there are a load of different ways of seeing/doing the same stuff – a load of different conclusions/actions depending on who you ask.

So whatever I do (or don’t do) someone else would do it differently.  And when I am deemed to have been “wrong” or “bad” … ?  It’s a hop-skip-and-jump to “I have sinned”.  Because I always will.

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And then we are straight back to “what is sin?”

“When I was bad doing that – was it sin” … “When I was wrong to think that – is it sin … ?”  And then what level of involvement do I need from God … ?  One hundred Hail Mary’s or a spiritual slap on the wrist and don’t do it again?

And so I walk this earth confused AND convinced both at the same time.

Confused as to will I ever get out of this “sin-quicksand” I am taught that I am in – Convinced I never can get out because God says (allegedly) that I must live in this sin-quicksand my whole life.  Is it any wonder I consider myself incapable of Love (without condition)?  Is it any wonder that “I” cannot stop reaching for “my” selective proof-verses that prove(!) why “I” cannot Love (without condition) – and that “I” must sin?

It’s because God says – that’s why.

I am unqualified in God.  I have no pieces of paper from any earthly seminary or theological college.  I cannot speak Greek, Arabic or any other “biblical language”.  I don’t read the bible much, I don’t pray much, and I don’t go to church much.  I tick many boxes of a sinner of the Lost World – perhaps worse than that – perhaps a false teacher.

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But the God Soft Hands Jesus I know never sees me that way.  Never judges me that way.

GSHJ seems content to walk my wayward walk.  To be with me on Sundays when we both should be in church.  To talk with me about the bible without ever opening a page.  To celebrate the good in me and comfort the bad I can and am from time to time.  God Soft Hands Jesus has all the time in the world for Love without condition.

But has little or none for sin.

Isn’t that The Way?  Isn’t that being a disciple? 

Isn’t that what he spent three years teaching and living?  Isn’t that why he took the established “church” to task so often?  Didn’t he find being “biblically correct” something incorrect?  Didn’t he question “privileges of service”?  Didn’t he focus on Love (without condition) with ne’er a “how many times have your prayed” …read the bible … attended church … volunteered for this that and also the other … how much have you tithed … are you dressed appropriately … are you a man (you are welcome) or a woman (cant lead I’m afraid) … ?

We see Pharisees only in the bible.  We see The Law only in others.  We think we are correct in our bible understanding.  We buy-into being a mature or immature Christian.  We love our Christian celebs and writers.  We praise ourselves for our ecumenical broad-mindedness.  We think the pews in church should be full to overflowing.  We think our church better than their church.

Even when we read the bible we don’t “read the bible” it seems.

But we do worry about sin.

We don’t think we can ever escape it.  Nor do we think we can Love without condition.  Which means this wonderful planet will always be a sin-riddled-cess-pit to us.  All because we obsess over sin.

All because we need sin more than Love.

Thank you.

Paul

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The qualified teaching of I can’t

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Qualified theology began life with good intent.

And then become bound in ever-more qualification to become ever-more-all-embracing-ever-more-applicable-to-all-people-throughout-all-time.

“All are welcome” shouldn’t need saying.

But it is all the time.

So too God and Jesus and Mercy and Worship and Grace and Love.

All need qualified explanation with a qualified language that only the qualified can understand and debate.  A language that accommodates every objection and question and doubt.  Or else it would not be explaining The Word of God for all occasions for all people in all circumstances throughout all time.  Because if it can’t then it might be flawed – and God is not flawed – so neither can The Word.

Which is why we need the qualified to teach The Word. 

But an unintended consequence is to insulate-bind this God in a Word that has become of Man to address all questions, doubts and preferences.  Because believers …

Believe!

And believers must be strong in belief … must live a visible and differentiated life of The Good and Worthy Servant.  And that takes strength not doubt –  certainty not questions – perfection not imperfection – needs the Devil to explain temptation – needs Sin and Sinners for giving-in to temptation – and needs the qualified to “ok” (forgive?) my “sinning” (on behalf of God?).

Because God is in all – God is in the very-stinky-unkempt-beer-filled-aggressive-sweary-homeless-person – that is God as well as God in me – the well-dressed-educated-employed-responsible-and-much-blessed-so-must-be-grateful-and should-be-attending-church-person (says the qualified Word of Man God)

“BEEN BLESSED?  Give a Buck, Save a Life!”  (the link to “tax deductible donations” under a God-blog)

“I do not at all understand the mystery of grace–only that it meets us where we are but does not leave us where it found us.  It can be received gladly or grudgingly, in big gulps or in tiny tastes, like a deer at the salt.” Anne Lamott  (like so many extracts from The Word, we take the bit that works and discard the rest … “deer at the salt”… really?)

“Grace is a gift from Heavenly Father given through His Son, Jesus Christ.  The word grace, as used in the scriptures, refers primarily to enabling power and spiritual healing offered through the mercy and love of Jesus Christ. … The grace of God helps us every day.”  (a gift we don’t deserve but are given anyway – with all the necessary qualified-baggage – gratitude, worship, servitude, etc)

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It all separates us from God.

And in explaining God-in-The-Bible we make me BEING God-like truly unattainable – make Love (the God-version) TOTALLY unattainable for us (weak-but-strong-in-belief!!) sinners-saved.  Which lets me off the hook on “Love” as well as being “God-like”.   All I can do is to try (unsuccessfully) to be seen to be trying.  That’s what the Word of Man God says.

Like the Word of Man God also says that EVEN gays and lesbians and false teachers and those who believe in a different God or no god at all are “All Are Welcome” if …

Which has one teensy-weensy flaw …  

It is not of Love and Grace and God.  Is not of I Am which IS the Word of God.

Now add Love (without any conditions at all)

not even the “condition” of me loving without any condition at all

– which means gays and lesbians and those who believe in a different God or no god at all AS WELL AS the very-stinky-unkempt-beer-filled-aggressive-sweary-homeless-person (who might ALSO be gay or lesbian or believe in a different God or no god at all) are not even visible as “different” to me by my (qualified) differentiation and my (taught) definition and my (conditional) no-conditions-love.

Or to put it another way …

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LOVE makes all “invisible” as different in any way to God.

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Which means ..

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Love makes all invisible as different in any way to me as well.

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And if I am Love …

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Then I shouldn’t need the Word of God …

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To teach me that I can’t.

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Love the gun, hate the gunner

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Hate the rhetoric, love the speaker.

Hate the consequences, but never change.

Love myself, but what can I do.

Meet me where I am – 

But leave me unchanged. 

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“Soundbites bite.

Repeated enough they become truth
They never were and never are

But we will allow

For they fit our timetable of outrage
And discomfort of connection

For a millisecond”

 

Three things I pray,

justmebeingcurious

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Back to Basics, Part 3

“You’ve been given insight into God’s kingdom. You know how it works. Not everybody has this gift, this insight; it hasn’t been given to them. Whenever someone has a ready heart for this, the insights and understandings flow freely. But if there is no readiness, any trace of receptivity soon disappears.” (Matthew 13:11-12, The Message)

hand.reaching.out

This series is deeply personal for me.

After I wrote Sunday Afternoon I needed to be lifted out of the hopelessness I felt after the horrible week of killing and chaos. Who better to lift me than Jesus?

I desperately needed to get back to the basics of our Savior’s sweet and redeeming words – back to why we call ourselves Christians in the first place.

The Gospels and Christ’s words are my shelter, my safe place, my refuge when I am confused, when I lose hope, when the world and the enemy become too much for me. This is the whole basis for this series: Back to Basics. The Gospels ground me solidly in the heart and Spirit of Jesus. It’s where I feel most at home.

As Jesus went on from there, he saw a man named Matthew sitting at the tax booth, and he said to him, “Follow me.” So Matthew got up and followed him. And as Jesus sat at the table in Matthew’s house, many tax collectors and sinners came and were eating with Jesus and his disciples.

When the Pharisees saw this, they said to his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?”

But when Jesus heard it, he said, “Those who are well have no need of a doctor, but those who are sick. Go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I did not come to call the pious, but sinners, to repentance.” (Matthew 9:9-13)

There was a lengthy discussion in the comments section of Back to Basics, Part 2 about how we as Christians call people to repentance. Sinners, outcasts, outsiders, even believers who wander from righteousness. I also had the same kind of discussion on another blog about how we treat our Christian brothers and sisters who have fallen into temptation.

“If your brother or sister sins, go and point out their fault, just between the two of you. If they listen to you, you have won them over. But if they will not listen, take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.’ If they still refuse to listen, tell it to the church; and if they refuse to listen even to the church, treat them as you would a pagan or a tax collector.” (Matthew 18:15-17)

I don’t perceive this statement of Jesus as abandonment. Matthew places this statement right after the Parable of the Lost Sheep (Matthew 18:12-14). Look back at the way Jesus treated pagans, prostitutes and tax collectors. He ate with them, he offered them grace and compassion, he loved them until they were able to feel his heart, able to feel safe enough to be totally vulnerable, able to willingly surrender to him and repent. He didn’t give up on them or ostracize the outcasts; just the opposite. He met them where they were and invited them into his arms where they saw his heart. (Luke 5:29-32, 7:37-39, 15:1, and 19:7)

Eyes to see and ears to hear come from ready hearts – hearts that have been tucked in safely on a bed of unconditional love and grace, of relationship, of knowing the history and hurts of that heart.

“Love the sinner, hate the sin,” is not safe. It says, “Your sin is your face and that is all I see of you or care to know about you.”

“Love the sinner, hate the sin,” is not safe. This phrase to all who hear it says, “I don’t want to know your history or pain. I already presume to know you globally through what I have condemned as your sin. Your sin is your face and that is all I see of you or care to know about you. Until you change, you are not worthy of my time or God’s time.”

Focusing on sin does not preach the Good News. It does not make disciples. Focusing on sin negates our own state of being when our Father adopted us through Christ. It negates everything Jesus lived and died for. It negates Christ’s resurrection.

When we focus on sin, we immediately place expectations on those we accuse. We establish a hierarchical relationship to them, we elevate their sin to a place of prominence instead of focusing on the Good News – God’s Grace (Romans 2:1-4, 3:24). And we forget that sin is a lifetime struggle.

Our job is to worry about our own sin, to whittle down our own logs, to look at the person in the mirror and begin there to make a change.

We have been left with two missions (commissions):

Reconciliation: Anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun! And all of this is a gift from God, who brought us back to himself through Christ. And God has given us this task of reconciling people to him. For God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself, no longer counting people’s sins against them. And he gave us this wonderful message of reconciliation. (2 Corinthians 5:17-19)

Make disciples: “Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:19-20)

So how do we successfully accomplish these missions?

Continued tomorrow in Back to Basics, Part 4.