Thoughts about Sin & Guilt
You can make me guilty of anything, because I am human. Sin and guilt are part of our lives. We grow up and learn from our parents later from our teachers what is right and what is wrong. As children we act naturally, then like our parents, by taking them as a role model. After a couple of years we learn to understand what others feel and learn to share feelings. Step by step we learn to judge what is good and what is wrong for us in this world. We learn to judge by our personal experience and education. That’s why sometimes my right can be in your eyes wrong.
Our whole life is an endless sequence of decisions. It starts in the morning with your coffee. Is it fair trade or one you just picked up in haste? It was a decision to buy that coffee and by buying it you stepped into a production line. Where are these coffee beans from? Have children been sold, kidnapped and brought to work on the plantation where your coffee beans come from? Are the workers paid properly? You don’t know. I can’t tell you either. But if it is like that, then you are supporting this production line by buying this product.
I always feel bad, about buying products when I can’t be sure where they come from. Most of the time we can’t even find out where the things we buy come from when we take it from the shelf of our nearest supermarket. So what to do?
This is the problem, how to live and try to take good decisions. Not to sin against God Creation and still keep on living. Sometimes I think the only way is to move to the mountains and cut myself off from civilization, living in solitary and still this is not the answer.
We feel guilty if we do something wrong; accidentally or on purpose. We feel guilty if we know that we could have done something in another way or because we did not do it.
Guilt is something that most of the people learn as children and will never forget. Everybody feels guilty about something: not replying to mom’s calls; buying cheap clothes made by young girls in Bangladesh; always wanting the newest electronic device that just came on the market, although your old one is still perfectly ok. I always feel guilty when I am running late or have forgotten something.
But the most important thing is not to feel sorry for yourself, because of what you have done, or haven’t done. In a way, just take this feeling of guilt and transform it into responsibility. Take the feeling of guilt as a warning sign to take the next step towards changing something. Baby steps. Every little change starting with the way you think about it.
I want to start with “Sin” by naming it and then ask what it means. I can explain “sin” as the separation from God. But how can we understand this separation?
The Bible tells us the story of Adam and Eve, in the Christian tradition it is called: “the fall into sin”. But this is just tradition, for example in the Jewish tradition, with who we share the five books of Moses, don’t see this story as the falling into sin. They see it as a story where Adam and Eve break their relation to God.
Sin is not just stealing, murder, lying, betrayal, greed, not cherishing your parents, and so on. In the Orthodox context, sin is when man puts himself into God’s place and acts like God. Man wanted to be like God and know what is good and what is bad. Liberal theology defines sin as “lack of love”.
I ask myself, why we always hear and have to talk about sin. Why do preachers preach over us about how full of sin we are? What do we need that for? This talk about sin and guilt is such a powerful weapon against people. It can be used to keep people small, impotent, sinful and ashamed; in this way they can be manipulated. We can’t speak in a right way about sin and guilt if we can’t look ahead to God’s grace and forgiveness. It is all about the small steps that we make towards change, baby steps towards changing ourselves.
I don’t want to talk so much about sin and guilt. Nobody can avoid it and we all have it. I want to talk about grace and forgiveness. These give us freedom and love to share with the rest of the world. I think this is the thing that really can change the way we see the world and then the world itself.
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