What a word. In modern society it is laden with preconceptions of judgement and negative connotations.
Even Christians struggle to say the word in fear that someone might be offended.
It is a word which has lost its true meaning in many ways. If I told a random man on the street that he was a sinner, he’d likely be upset with me and think I was a fundamentalist nut. But if I told him that he was someone who made mistakes, and had hurt people in his life, would he disagree?
Sin means to err, or to make a mistake. To miss the mark or target. To not get it right.
Don’t we all do that?
In a Christian context we believe that when we “don’t get it right”, it has an affect upon our soul.
God hasn’t condemned us, or marked us, we’ve damaged ourselves.
That’s the concept. At least, that’s how I see it.
I am a sinner, you are a sinner, Pope Francis is a sinner. What does that mean?
You see, sometimes I think, why do we need salvation? I wonder when early humans decided that they had an intrinsic problem.
Was it an evolutionary process of discernment as they came to the realisation that killing one another was ultimately not such a great idea and more could be achieved in community?
But what of the concept of failing in the eyes of the Creator?
This is an idea shared by other religions in some form or another. That being said, not all religions believe in a Supreme Deity but there is a general agreement that humans are in need of attaining a “higher state”.
And then of course, there is the indisputable fact that people still kill and maim and fight each other; We lie and steal and are cruel. We can be pretty messed up.
(And yes, I know people can also be good to one another too!)
Is the idea of sin a straw man? A man-made invention with a man-made cure? Or do we have a Divine Law written on our hearts that helps us know right from wrong?
I suppose these are questions I can never really know the answers to, but I believe that in asking them I open my heart up in tolerance and understanding.
Christians see sin, getting it wrong, hurting one another, bad things, whatever you want to call it, as something that separates us from God. If God is all good, and all good comes from Him, then bad cannot return to Him as the source of all good. You follow? So we need to find a way to repair ourselves in order to get back to God. This brings about the mother of all questions: How?
Perhaps by being good? Seems feasible but could you ever be good enough to reunite with the source of all goodness?
Sacrificing things? Would an all good Being really want us to slaughter animals (and each other) to appease Him?
So the crux of it is: If God is real and we know a little about His nature, as I discussed in Part 1, and if sin is a real thing that has an effect on our souls and separates us from God then we all need to be saved. Being saved just means being reunited with God. Different Christian denominations believe different things about just how that reunion with God is brought about but we all agree that it is only possible because of Jesus Christ.
And you might be jumping up from your seat saying, “Aha! Got you! Why would an all loving, all good God kill his own son!!!! That’s a pretty barbaric way of reuniting us to Him, Eh?”
And I say back to you, “Great point.”
But then, you see, Jesus is God. God is Father, Son and Holy Spirit. A unity of love.
So God became a man (Jesus) and was both Father and Son. Different persons yet the same God. Confused? Me too.
So because our “damaged” souls cannot return to an all good God (remember they are damaged because we do things that aren’t right, and we know it. Even something like saying something hurtful to a parent in a moment of anger is ultimately not a good thing.) God is all good (yo). That is why we say Jesus died for our sins. God died as a way for us to be repaired. For our damaged souls to be fixed.
Why? Because He loves us. And what about the whole dying thing? Why couldn’t He click his omnipresent fingers and save us like that? Well, because then it wouldn’t be our choice to be with Him. We had to see Him die (or at least read about it) in order to understand how much He loved us. He could have appeared and said, “Hey guys! I love you!” and we’d say, “Prove it!”
So He did. He took the bullet for us people. That’s the message in its simplest form!
(As a sidebar: If you like to think that you’ve lived a reasonably good life and that you feel that you definitely aren’t destined for (thunder-clap) eternal damnation and are wondering why our all good God can’t just make us clean when we die, well then you aren’t too far off from the Catholic concept of Purgatory!)
There are so many complex layers that just cannot be unpacked in one post but it has been an interesting process for me to write it and to realise those complexities. And so as usual I finish with more questions than answers but somehow I feel I need to say that I am comforted deeply by Christ and by the concept of a love so great that it is willing to sacrifice everything for me.
Who needs to be saved? I do.