Sin or ignorance
‘Sin’ is a difficult concept to understand. Today the word itself is in disrepute and I can understand that. Here I am 65 years old, and I still struggle with the term. In some religious traditions the concept of ‘ignorance’ is used when it comes to seeking to understand the plight of mankind. People can embrace the above states, of sin and ignorance, or they can be victims of them, yet the outcome is the same.
I was talking to a man in the 12th step program and he said something to me that I often think about. The quote is actually a paraphrase. He said:
“The label for any addiction does no good if it is placed on someone who does not accept the reality of his or her dependence. The results of the addiction, the chaos and pain that it causes in life is there, but until the person can say ‘I have a problem with drugs or alcohol, or food, or sex etc’…nothing can be done. They are in fact imprisoned by their ignorance (or sin if you like). The key is to name it. That is the only way to open the door”.
It is self-knowledge that starts the journey to healing, mercy and a larger participation in community. Isolation is often the fruit of being a victim and not knowing how to unlock that door.
I was going for a walk this morning very early. Something I have always loved to do. Well at least in the last 30 years or so. As I was walking, I started to understand a little about the reality of sin in my life. Not in a way that belittled me, or made me ashamed, or led me to despair, but to a place where I could embrace it. It is what keeps me back from leading the life that I believe we are called to live. A life of interior freedom and joy, a life of being open to the knowledge that my faith wants me to experience and live out on a daily basis. This can’t happen unless I can name what keeps me back.
Jesus (and from what I have read and studied over the years, most religious paths), calls us to ‘die’ to self. What he is asking is to allow something deeper, more loving, healing and merciful into our hearts. To love our enemies can be one of the most difficult things we can do. Sin (or ignorance) can keep us chained to that millstone that weighs us down and is in the end self destructive. To learn to love others freely is to allow the soul to breathe. Sin (ignorance), traps us, smothers us, and keeps us from living a full live in the Spirit.
The deeper we understand this, by whatever name we wish to call it, the deeper our experience of ‘Infinite Mercy’ becomes. Mercy, though freely given, paradoxically has a price. It demands that we face what we are, what we have done as well as what we have not done. It is a process that deepens as we mature. So that mercies work is felt at ever deeper levels. To let go of the chains of sin and or ignorance is the only way to actually love ourselves, so as to allow us to love others.
Our addiction, the ways we seek to avoid life in all of its fullness drowns us, dragging us into a hell like existence if carried along far enough. Hell is a state of self-creation; mercy seeks to open up the gates so that we can allow the light of grace into our hearts. Hell’s seed is in the human heart, it is self produced, while mercy leads us into infinite reality, a gift that can only be accepted and not earned. Our ‘yes’ has deep ramifications, as well as our ‘no’. Who gives that deep ‘yes’ or ‘no’ is not known by me, nor should I seek to identify, for I will always err in my judgments of others.
Judgment is always true when it comes to how we must face ourselves after we leave this life. It is not about ‘beyond reasonable doubt’. No, it is instant and true. When we face that reality of who we are and what we have become though our own will and choice, then we will embrace what we have become with our whole being. Those who choose separation from the infinite, are not in conflict, nor is their regret on their part, though there is the absence of what they actually long for but have rejected.
The world today is created by man. It has heaven, hell and purgatory (which are our inner conflicts) within its boundaries….that is so because we chose here. Our inner and outer conflict happens here….it is here that we have free will. When we come to full term, then self conflict is over, and we either grow in that reality for eternity if we choose to die to a self that is self consumed; or we disintegrate for eternity.
I believe C.S. Lewis’s book “The Great Divorce” deals with this reality and I would recommend all to read it. This life is important, our choices crucial, our little choices very important. We are in conflict because we are in the process of becoming more open or more closed off from ‘reality’. The great saints and the great sinners (which I believe are very rare) are at peace, they have chosen. The rest of us simply go from day to day struggling to be open to ‘reality’ and to grow hopefully into greater love and healing.
It is not about power,
but love of others and self,
and yes of God.