Friday, April 01, 2011

Sin and self

Been thinking about sin. Or Sin, if you like. (It's Lent, after all.) In many ways it's an old-fashioned concept these days. It's also a word that is bandied about as an adjective in current thought, when applied to instances of badness - but that's a use which seems to let too many of us off, in a way.

After all, I haven't murdered anyone, nor have I cheated anyone out of their rights, or their money, or their partner. I tend not to lie, and I try to avoid fruit with a big food-miles tag. Most of the people I live among could say the same, I'm sure - especially, surely, all the good folk in church. And yet every week, or more often if we're particularly pious, we admit to having sinned in "thought, word and deed". What do we think we have done? Do we think at all? Do we just say these words because they're there?

I still have a long way to go in this line of thought. But I wonder if perhaps sin is rooted in self-absorption - from the inability to walk in someone else's shoes, or the refusal to do so. And if you're a religious person, you might recognise that as something that ensures that God doesn't get a look in. Not really. And then there will be a long string of consequences ...



  1. Yes, essentially, sin is being orientated on the self and not on God. In serving God we ask - who is the person before me? How can I serve them? How can I be myself before them, and still respect my needs for safety? How can I learn to be more truly myself? How can I enable others in this situation (in the shop, on the bus, in the church) to be more fully themselves?

    In serving self, we ask, how can I impress this person? what can this person give me? Or more likely, we say 'That before me now is not really a person as I am a person. Their needs must go down before mine.' The saint says 'I' and 'thou' and the sinner says 'you object'.

  2. Yeah, I wondered much the same about "thought, word and deed".

    Self-absorption could well be the start of it, especially if one considers "and what we have failed to do" as pointing at failure to pay attention to injustices of systems bigger than oneself. (Spot the socio-liberal theological angle creeping in ;)

  3. Harry Williams offers another take on this: sin is simply the desire to remain in total control ourselves, because of our inability to trust God. I've found that helpful ever since reading it (though I can't remember which of his books it comes from).

  4. I'm finding all these comments illuminating and enlarging - thank you(s!)

    Wish one or two of my non-Christian readers would contribute...