Many struggle with the word “sin” a word often drawing an immediate connection with the word “guilt.” Raised in cultures steeped in those two descriptors, descriptors used to capture what some churches see as the generalized plight of humanity, many simply choose to leave church altogether.
So how can we hold “sin” in a healthy way? An important question because there is indeed such a thing as sin. People do do horrible things to others ranging from abuse to terrorism. So we have to talk about it. The question becomes how.
Alan Mann offers some interesting perspectives, ones closely aligned with New Church theology.
From his perspective, while the word “sin” clearly creates an often negative reaction, we almost all universally share a sense of estrangement, a sense, a knowledge that we are failing to live fully into the lives God intended for us.
Life is relational. Loving God and loving others functioning one and the same. So sin is relational. Sin is what obscures and damages relationships with God and with others. Those damaged relationships feed very readily into those feelings of a core estrangement, a sense of lostness.
Christianity offers a way out. Not in terms of transaction where Christ becomes the sacrifice for all sin. Instead in terms of seeing in Christ, God incarnate – as the human embodiment of the Divine – seeing God in a focused way that we can in our small and broken ways emulate. A loving, functional model we can follow in that search to come into our fullest humanity, living life as God truly intended. That comes right back to this key bit – Christ does not ask us to worship him but instead asks us to follow him.
Healing and reconciliation can occur there – in the following – remembering that the issue is always with us, not with God. We are forgiven instantly by God. Our role however is to “come right” in ourselves, to live more fully into the lives we were intended to live, regaining a sense of inner coherence in our lives, one married to the best angels of our nature.
God’s help in this endeavor is His spirit moving among us and through us. “The Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.” (John 14:26) Spirit and Breath – the same words speaking to that amazing movement God in our journey.
Wisdom then comes to be “written not on our memories but on [our] lives.” (Divine Love and Wisdom, 427)
All of this leads to a different view of the word “sin.” It does not leave the word devoid of meaning. What it adds to the word is a context – a context of sin clear about the fallen parts of our nature that harm others and, at the same time, a context embedded in healing, embedded in a sense of humble empowerment, of grace.