Changing my perspective on sin.

A couple of things I have read lately have talked a lot about how different your perspective is when you become a Christian as an adult. I have been a Christian since I was a very young girl, so that perspective is completely lost on me. I can’t point to a specific moment of conversion – instead, Christianity to me has been more like growing into hand-me-down clothes. It used to be too big, and I couldn’t think of it as my own, exactly, but over time I grew and it started to fit. It became mine.

One of the quotes I am specifically thinking of is from Seeking Enlightenment Hat by Hat by Nevada Barr.

And so I sinned and I sinned and I wondered why the hell my life wasn’t working out all that well. After I wandered into that church and sat in the second pew under the window with the lilies and the lamb for several years, I surprised myself by saying to a congenital Christian, one born to it, “What I like about church are the rules.”

Like many a good Christian, she replied, “What I don’t like are the rules.”

She’d never had to live without them. For thousands of years Jews and then Christians labored to hammer out a system for living together peaceably with others while keeping oneself spiritually whole and well. My generation had thrown this wisdom out and then tried to reinvent the wheel in a decade.

I looked again at sin with new eyes and an open mind.

I still don’t believe sin is a God thing in the sense of recording and punishing. I doubt a Being that rules all-known galaxies and watches novas instead of late night TV is going to say: “Whoa, little Alice French-kissed that boy! Am I ever going to remember THAT!” No, God isn’t going to lose much sleep if we covet our neighbor’s wife. I do believe it’s a God thing in the sense of wise counsel, guidance, a helping hand.

My feeling is, ninety-nine times out of a hundred, sins are simply really rotten ideas. Adultery is painful, expensive and not nearly as much fun as you thought it would be. Coveting makes you bitter and angry, ill at ease with the neighbor and his wife. Living “in sin” keeps a lame-duck relationship that should have been over in six months limping along for two years. I could go down the list of all the seriously bad ideas we’ve been warned against, but, if you’re over fifteen, you’ve discovered they all have hidden costs.

I’ve reached the conclusion that sinning is much like drinking from a faucet with a Water Not Potable sign over it. You can do it. It’s not illegal. God won’t strike you down. But odds are you’ll get sick.

[Now, before I get nasty comments, I want to clarify that I know sin makes us unacceptable to God. I know all that stuff. I know that this maybe isn’t the most theologically sound quote there is, in the sense that it doesn’t explore everything that’s wrong with sin. But this post is not about the theological aspects of sin. It’s about how this quote makes me feel. Okay, disclaimer over.]

The thing is, as a lifelong churchgoer, I need to hear that kind of thing more often. That these rules aren’t just God being arbitrary. They’re for our benefit. There’s something about the way she phrases that – that God’s not up there tallying the misspent days of our youth – that really resonates with me. I have been told hundreds of times that God’s laws are for our benefit, but to hear someone put it so plainly, someone who lived another way and is thankful for the boundaries God has put into place for us . . . it really hits home.

Sometimes I need to hear a different perspective to get me out of a rut. I read this, and it helped me realize what a wrong view I have of God. It hasn’t changed anything, necessarily, but I have filed it away. I’ve been filing a lot of that kind of thing away lately, and pondering it.

I’m not exactly sure where it’s leading, but the truth feels better than what I’ve been believing.

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