19 May 2006
I continue to surprise myself on how slow I am on exploring life in all its dimensions.
Sunday, sitting in church, “Jesus died for our sins.” I have heard that statement said aloud at least 1000 times or maybe more but this time, I had a sudden realization that I had never really explored the concept of “sin.” Like so many things in my life, “sin” seems to have been with me since I first understood language. Was sin one of the first things I was taught, like my name? Grew up knowing the word and some vague concept of what it was: right and wrong, ying and yang, the light and the darkness. Is sin like “family values” or pornography where the Supreme Court could not define it but said you know it when you see it? We all know what sin is but would we be pushed to really try to define it? Are sins acts or lack of actions that other people commit but not us?
Thinking about it, it seems to me, today, that sin as a concept is at the very heart of a civilized society. Without some concept of right and wrong, people could or would do just about anything and our social fabric would just not exist.
So, is the concept of sin genetically inherited? Are we borne with this concept deeply rooted in our brains like the ability to learn language?
In the story and subsequent Walt Disney Movie, Pinocchio, a character named Jiminy Cricket acts as Pinocchio’s conscience trying to tell the wooden head what were right actions and what were wrong actions. If you remember, if Pinocchio told a lie, his nose would grow longer. Interesting fable, Pinocchio and like so many others told to children, has a very strong message about right and wrong. So, if something is not right, it is a sin? Wrong actions, deeds, thoughts = sin?
After my sudden awareness that I had been taking the concept of sin for granted all these years without actually delving into it, I began asking everyone I met, if they thought there was a word for “sin” in every language currently in use in the world. Everyone said “yes” although they explained that it might have a slightly different meaning in other languages “Know it when you see it?” A search of the Internet to determine if the word “sin” exists in all living languages relieved nothing. I do assume someone has studied this and knows the answer but I cannot provide it here. I do assume that the concept of sin and an associated word for it, is, in fact, present in all countries and living languages of the world.
Sin. I seem the know the following about sin:
1. I was born a sinner because of “original sin.” Eve talked Adam into plucking an apple from the forbidden tree of knowledge and mankind got the boot out of paradise. Although I am not sure I have ever heard it said, but is original sin the reason we die? Born a sinner is kind of a bummer. I mean in just about everything I can think of, you start off perfect or clean and then muck it up. Take a bowling game for example. Before you roll that first ball, you have a 300 or perfect game. Why is it that we have to start out the gate as sinners? Always seemed wrong to me as I never did anything wrong to deserve being called a sinner, or at least not at the age of 4 or 5.
2. The Devil. The devil is somehow mixed up with sin. Does the devil cause us to sin or only part of our sinning or none of it? There used to be a comedian on TV who liked to say "The devil made me do it!" Not all that sure that to simply blame it all on the devil is right. Something about freewill given to us by God. And if thinking about the devil and hard to see how one can believe in God and not also acknowledge a devil, then have to think about evil. Have only felt evil inside me twice in my life. Once when very out of it on drugs and felt it drip off a party member in buckets. The other time I felt evil was in a dream where I met the devil and although he nice enough to begin with, he turned dark and radiated the most foul, evil feeling. Did not and do not like the feeling of evil. Is evil a feeling like anxiety or some other form of mental state? For me, definitely a feeling and not one I want to feel ever again.
3. The 10 Commandants. These big 10 form the basis of all subsequent definitions of sin. Break any of the big ten and you have sinned. (1)"I am the LORD your God who brought you out of the land of Egypt..." This commandment is to believe in the existence of God, that God is eternal, that God is the sole creator of all that exists, that God determines the course of events in this world. (2)"Thou shall have no other gods besides Me. Do not make a sculpted image or any likeness of what is in the heavens above." (3)"Thou shall not swear falsely by the name of the LORD." (4)"Remember the Sabbath day and keep it holy." (5)"Thou shall honor your father and your mother." (6)"Thou shall not murder." (7)"Thou shall not commit adultery." (8)"Thou shall not steal." (9)"Thou shall not bear false witness against your neighbor." (10)"Thou shall not covet your neighbor's house…." If the 10 commandants were not in the Bible but found written on some scroll or piece of paper anyplace at anytime, they would still have the utmost significance to any society or any social order as they are just, good, solid rules to live by. Of all the commandants, the one I have the most trouble with is, “Thou shall not kill.” (Interesting that an Internet search revealed multiple variations of the wording of the “big” 10. Whereas I grew up with “Thou shall not kill,” the version provide above says “murder.” How should I know, which was really handed down to Moses? I personally like “kill” as I think all life is precious and God considers life precious also. The commandant does not say except in cases: of self-defense, an enemy real or imagined, or execution by the state for some crime or sin. If it is a sin to kill then how is it not a sin for the state to kill, execute, a man or woman? The commandant is “Thou shall not kill.” No exceptions, no special cases. Make the commandant read, “Thou shall not murder” and this seems to allow war, executions, etc. Interesting that when I doing Internet search on 10 commandants, came across various web sites selling 10 commandants novelties like bumper stickers, stone tablets for your yard, hats. Sometimes I cannot believe the crassness of our dollar-based culture. Went to an antique sale one time and there on floor was a rug showing Christ at the last supper and I and my wife, just could not walk on it. I not a super religious man but walking on that image just seemed wrong somehow. A rug showing the last supper for the floor?
4. There are 7 deadly sins, which were defined by Milton the author and include: (1) Pride is an excessive belief in one's own abilities. (2) Envy is wanting what others have, be it status, abilities, or possessions. (3) Gluttony is the desire to eat or consume more than you require. (4) Lust is a powerful craving for such as sex, power, and money. (5) Anger is the loss of rational self-control and the desire to harm others. (6) Greed is the desire for material wealth or gain and (7) Sloth is laziness and the avoidance of work. Of these seven, I have to say that I am guilty of pride now and again and lust just about all the time. Not lust for power or money but sex. A real demon or monkey on my back I have never been able to shake. Believe it or not, I think many people do not know about the “7 deadly sins” and am all but 100 percent sure that people of other countries do not know these unless they would have studied Milton at some university. I wonder if borne-again Christians accept Melton's 7 deadly as real sins even though they are not defined in the Bible?
5. It is a sin not to fully use one's God given talents and skills. As I am a jack of all trades and master of none, this one keeps me pretty busy trying to help others as it would be a sin otherwise not to help.
So, what I have defined above is or was just about all I knew about sin. However, via the medium of the Internet, I have now been informed that there are over 600 defined sins in the Bible alone, much less those listed in the documents or “Bibles” of other religions. Some of the 600 I found on the Internet does stop and make me wonder. For example:
a. Being Anxious. Maybe I have been to too many head therapy sessions but isn’t being anxious a pretty normal human emotion or condition? I guess the idea here is that we should just trust that God is in charge and everything will always be ok. Sounds so good and I guess some people may have faith that strong but according to modern medicine, anxiety is partly a brain chemistry problem and how can I be accused of a sin when my brain chemistry is at fault?
b. Making long meaningless prayer. How could any prayer be meaningless?
c. Philosophy. Does this mean that if man wonders about his existence, he is sinning? I know there is the old one about if “God had wanted us to fly, he would have given us wings,” but I cannot understand how philosophy is a sin.
Eating Blood. Got no problem here unless those hotdogs I
consume from time to time have some sort of blood in them. Seems like a weird
sin. What fringe group eats blood? Wouldn't "drinking blood" make more
sense and I guess it is any type of blood although at first reading, I got human
blood out of it.
Wouldn't "drinking blood" make more sense and I guess it is any type of blood although at first reading, I got human blood out of it.
e. Observing days, months, times. Now this is a strange one. I guess just about every living American is a sinner as defined by this Biblical sin. Without a calendar, days and time, how would any society function?
f. Love fancy clothing to show off and be admired by men. Obviously, a chick sin but these days, not necessarily so. Wonder why devout Christians do not take the fashion industry to the matt for all the skinny woman’s clothes they design and sell everywhere? Quite honestly, I did not know that sin was gender specific. I thought all sins or the definitions for sins, applied to both sexes and to all ages.
g. Striking a man in the groin. Now I like this one and makes every sense to me but seems like a strange thing to define as a sin.
Went to see the movie “The Da Vinci Code” tonight and there was a line one of the Catholic Bishops said that seems more than applicable to this writing effort on sin. He said, “his particular sect of the Catholic Church was not cafeteria Catholics and they did not pick and choose what was sin and what was not.” Interesting how he seemed so assured that he knew exactly what sin is.
In the end, like so many things, I am not sure there is a real answer to what is sin. I know the concept has been around for a very, very, long time and I am glad that it has, even though many bad things have happened in the name of correcting or cleansing sin.
And so, I take the Supreme Courts stand. Sin: you know it when you see it or feel it.
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