God. Sin. Imperfection. Love.

Oct 01, 2012


       I don’t believe in sin. Let me tell you why. First I had an overdose of hell-fire-and-damnation preaching in my childhood, so I am naturally—now—very skeptical about this kind of teaching.  But more than that, I have had a sea change in how I think about God and how God looks at us from a unique perspective.

       Let’s say that God created the universe and all that inhabits it, including the first man and woman and pronounced it good. And in the following days he discovered that his creatures, man and woman, were less than perfect, less than obedient. And was so shocked that he threw them out of the garden and condemned them to living outside the garden(read kingdom), all because of their sin.

       If we read the first chapters of Genesis literally that is the story. We would believe that God who had created all the heavens and earth and all that it contained had made a mistake after pronouncing it all good. And that the first human’s “sinfulness” was a surprise to their creator. I have come to read this story in a different way.

That God created 1)the 250,000 species of beetles that now exist or maybe just the one original beetle with the capacity to adapt and change into 250,000 kinds, 2)ditto for the 119,000 species of flies, 3)ditto for the 12,000 species of ferns, 4)2,700 species of snakes, 5)10,448 species of birds, 6)700 species of rodents, 7)12,000 species of ferns, 8)600 species of oaks, 9)our beautiful earth in all its interdependent glory, 10)a complex, immense universe and on and on, could also create humans and not know what they would be like– just doesn’t work for me. So I find myself not believing in sin. The Hebrew word translated as “sin” in English actually carries the meaning of “missing the mark.” We humans certainly do miss the mark repeatedly.

       I agree that we humans are notoriously imperfect, but we were created in this way, because God gave us free will to choose to be obedient or not and to put ourselves under the authority of God or not; God also knew that we would not be perfect. Are we just plain bad or a mix of good and bad? How do you look at yourself? Are you able to hold two opposing views about yourself and see yourself as a whole, but probably flawed person? Like God sees you?

To me the Garden of Eden story is an allegory or metaphor or a cautionary tale about what happens when we turn away from God. We find ourselves outside the kingdom and have to work really hard to get back there, if, and it’s a big if, we want to go back there.

While I don’t believe in sin, I do believe that we are imperfect human beings who were created with the free will to choose to turn towards God or not, to fulfill our created destiny or not, to be carriers of God’s love and compassion or not. God created us, giving us the power to choose or to reject a deep relationship with our creator. Like the father in the Parable of the Prodigal Son, God is watching and waiting to see if we will turn back his way, to come home, to put our lives in her hands, to become “born again,” if you will, to surrender. No matter what we have done or been, God is rushing out to the gate in celebration and joy as he sees any one of his human creations heading back home. She has compassion and forgiveness and love for us, just waiting to shower it on us.

There is a difference between believing in “original sin” and in imperfect human beings. It shows up in how we treat ourselves and in how we relate to God. If we are impatient with our imperfections, if we cannot love ourselves as we are, if we must deny parts of ourselves or our behavior as shameful, how can we possible approach God without shame and looking for the punishment that we deserve. Shame and deserving punishment do not translate into love and forgiveness, or integrity and the ability to stand as we are before God’s throne. We cower, we cringe, we worship out of duty or to manipulate God’s favor. Where is the whole person that we want to become? How can we begin to live freely and loved in God’s kingdom? How can we love God with all—heart, mind, soul and strength, if we are hiding this characteristic or that behavior from him? How can we ever breach the chasm between our unworthiness and God?  The truth is we can’t.

To have a real relationship with another, even God, we must come as we are, flawed and wonderful all at the same time, and then stand before the other, in this case the God of love and compassion and forgiveness. Who are we to reject all that God offers us? Who are we to say that we are undeserving, and that if we were only more pious, more perfect, well, then we could be worthy to stand in God’s love. God’s love sees us as we are. And takes us into the abundant banquet(read kingdom) that is simply awaiting us whenever we decide to return.




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