Saturday, November 3, 2012

Understanding Sin as Tangent

Generally, I avoid the term sin.  This is not because i find the topic distasteful, but because most people don't know what sin is.  They see it as arbitrary divine judgement.  For them, sin is the violation of some supernatural legal code.  Just as crime results in prison, sin results in damnation.  It's cold and impersonal and alienating.  When they hear us say they are sinning they simply hear us passing judgment on them.  Although i will not shy away from talking about sins, generally, i will avoid the term.  It just confuses the issue and pushes people farther away.
      However, this is based on a misconception of God, of His relation to us.  God is not a power hungry tyrant, He is not an impersonal and wrathful judge.  He is a loving Father, and He created us with a purpose.  To understand sin, we must first understand this purpose and our relation to God.
      There is a meaning to life.  We were created for the greatest good of all, complete union with God, in which we find true happiness and ultimate joy.  We enter into this union through love, through the true self-gift.  This is not something we do, but rather something we allow God to do.  All you really contribute is your yes, when you say yes to God and offer Him the entirety of yourself.  So long as i pursue my own good, i will never find the ultimate good.  So long as i am looking out for myself and pursuing my own happiness, true joy and fulfillment will forever evade me.  So i let go, and offer myself to God.  I allow him to love me and to love the world through me.  In giving myself to Him, i receive Him in turn, and find the purpose for which i was made.
      There is this path, its narrow and steep, but when we travel it we travel with God, towards our true purpose.  This is the path of salvation.  God neither forces us to walk it nor to remain on it.  There are many other paths to choose from, often times they seem more appealing, but they do not takes us anywhere we really want to go.  They are tangents, leading us away from our true ends.  We walk the path of salvation so long as we pursue God, the ultimate good.  We leave this path and pursue the tangents when we choose lesser goods over God, temporal good over eternal good, personal good over the good of others.
      God does not send anyone to Hell.  If He did, he would be a monster, creating man simply to subject him to eternal torment.  God sends no one to Hell.  Each and every soul who arrives in this destination of the damned is there of their own free will, their own volition.  They refused God when He offered them salvation, when He offered them Himself.  The souls in Hell said no when God offered them Heaven.
      When we place our hope in anything apart from God it will eventually fail us.  We pursue lesser goods but they don't satisfy us.  They may grant us a momentary escape from the miseries of life, but soon they fade.  We seek them out again, but this time we need more to get the same feelings, and again they fade.  Soon it does not matter how much we get, our desire cannot be satisfied.  We desire a fulfillment which can only be achieved in finding our meaning, our purpose in being.  We all hope in someday finding that purpose, but the longer we seek it in vain the more our hope fades, until it finally dies, and all we are left with is despair.  Hell is not a place like Pittsburgh or Milwaukee, it is a state of being, it is the complete absence of a meaning only God can provide.  Hell is the complete and utter despair resulting from a life of self-gratification.
      Sin aught not to be seen as a legal term, divine or otherwise.  Our true fulfillment is found in union with God, and God desires that for us.  However, He gave us free will so that we could choose for ourselves.  We have the power to choose against God, to reject Him.  We can take actions that impede our union with God, that separate us from the ultimate good, that lead us on the path towards the misery of despair.  This is the essence of sin.  This is what we aught to mean when we refer to it.  Sin is that which separates us from God, from the ultimate good, from the purpose of our being.  It consists of those things which are spiritually harmful to the individual who does them. 
      God desires that which is best for us, which is union with Him.  Sin harms us by separating us from Him and binding us to the world.  Nothing in creation is evil in of itself.  Food is good, sex is good, music is good, everything is created good.  The problem comes when we prefer these things to God.  Again, God sends no one to Hell, it is not something God subjects us to, it is something we subject ourselves to.  But why?  Why would anyone choose Hell over Heaven?  It is because of the high cost of Heaven.  In order to gain paradise, we must be willing to give up everything.  All the goods of creation are distractions we must be willing to sacrifice.  No human being can do this alone.  It is only with God's aid that this is possible.  Even then we all will fall short on occasion.  Sins are those things which tie us to these lesser goods and distract us from God.
      When we do something that leads us away from God, we are choosing against Heaven.  When we stop pursuing God and go off on these tangents, that is sin.  When God tells us to give to those in need and avoid murdering our neighbors, it is because He desires what is best for us.  I could rightly say that contraception is a sin, but most people would hear something like; contraception makes God angry and now your going to hell.  This understanding would not only be unhelpful, but it could even lead people away from Christ and His Church.  So rather than give scandal, i say contraception harms you as a person, it impedes your true happiness and hinders your relationship with God.  Far less offensive, much more informative, and yet I have said the exact same thing in both cases.  For that is what sin does and why it is so bad; it harms us as people, impedes our true happiness and hinders our relationship with God.
      Sin is a tangent, because it distracts us from the real purpose of it all.

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