An excerpt from my Touching Base column, going out on the Wardman Wire later today:
The language of sin, at it's best, is diagnosis of dis-ease. The original '7 deadly sins' tried to diagnose the most common motivations for wrong behaviour, and the classical list of pride, lust, greed, laziness, envy, gluttony and anger does cover a multitude of sins. Fr Girottis interview was an attempt to apply these to specific situations, and to social sins in particular.
Unfortunately, when you talk about sin people get all defensive. We don't like being accused of stuff. We don't like being in the wrong.
But unless we discover that we are in the wrong, and deal with it, sin will never go away, and other people will suffer. A leader with no sense of sin, and his own fallibility, is a curse upon his people (ask a Zimbabwean). A parent with no sense of sin and fallibility is a curse upon their family. We may not like the language - maybe it's our cultural aversion to guilt - but we can't escape the reality.
John Ortberg writes (with a bit of paraphrasing):
"Some time ago I became painfully aware that I had lied to a good friend. This had several consequences:
- I walked around under a cloud of guilt
- a silent breach opened up in our relationship because I had placed a barrier of untruth between us
- I was a bit more inclined to tell a lie next time
- I found myself avoiding God.
When I recognised all this, I knew I had to confess to my friend. Even then it took me some time to face my embarrassment. However, when I'd looked at the results of my actions as honestly as I could, a wonderful thing happened: I found myself not wanting to lie again. Unravelling the knots of the motives and consequences of our sin requires a patient, quiet spirit. But what price wouldn't we pay to be free?"
As Easter week starts, we're reminded again of how desperately God wants to forgive sins, to the extent of his own suffering and death. The journey to the Cross is not a guilt trip. It is both a mirror on the human soul - that the best man who ever lived is condemned by his peers and executed by his own rulers - and a mirror on the soul of God. When Jesus is tortured and killed and still prays 'Father forgive them', that shows us a God who is always, relentlessly, looking for a way to inject grace. Sin is not about feeling guilty, it is about getting better, and opening ourselves up to God's help to do so.
I'm told that the rug makers of North Africa deliberately put a mistake into every item they make. It's a spiritual act, to remind them that 'only God is perfect'. It's ok to be a sinner. God knows you are already, and can cope with it. Can you?
And a more pressing question: does putting this as a post on my own blog, when I've written it for another, count as sloth? All these moral dilemmas make me glad to be a Protestant...