If we are going to be really honest, talking about sin is not among our favorite things to do. Ok, actually, we hate talking about sin. One of the many reasons that Lent weighs so heavily on us is that we spend so much time talking about sin. And let’s face it: that’s a downer.
I think we have two real issues with talking about sin.
- We aren’t entirely sure what sin is. We read some pretty ghastly lists in the New Testament letters and think, “That’s not me.” We think that all sin is about action. Not necessarily. Sin is first an attitude, a state of mind. Lent asks us, “Where am I resisting God?” In other words, are there places in my life where I don’t want God to be King? Those are places of sin. We may still look pretty good on the outside. We show up at church or volunteer to feed the homeless but we know that there are places in us where we don’t want God to meddle. Sin is broken relationship. Sin is secrets. Sin begins and festers first as a heart condition, long before our skin gets involved.
- Those of us who have spent much time in churches may have experienced teaching about sin that lead to shame. Now, lets clear up some definitions first. Guilt is when we know that we have done something we shouldn’t. Shame is when we know that we are bad because we have done something we shouldn’t. (Brene’ Brown’s work on this is outstanding! Read it!) Good theology about sin leads us to guilt. It leads us to recognize that we aren’t cooperating with God’s dream for the world. Bad theology about sin leads us to shame. It leads us to believe that we are lowly vermin. Good theology about sin begins with God. Bad theology about sin begins with humans. You, as a human being, are the masterpiece creation of God’s hands. You carry in you the image of God. You are God’s fingerprint on the world. You are God’s beloved. When you resist God’s dream for the world in your own little corner of the world, you do not loose the status of God’s beloved. You do not become slime. Conversation about sin must begin from confidence in our identity as God’s beloved.
The season of Lent is not about affirming our rigid masks of ‘Holier than Thou’ or about reducing us to cosmic slimeballs. Lent isn’t really even about sin.
Lent is about returning, more completely, to God.
Lent is an invitation to life lived to the full!