Sunday, June 03, 2007

Serious Sin

What is it in us that wants to rank sin? Any sin of any degree separates us from God, be it lust, murder, or pride—even pride that my sins aren’t nearly as bad as yours (Lk. 18.9ff.). Usually when I’m thinking about what a horrible sinner someone else is, it’s a way of distracting myself from my own sin—not to mention an example of active sin in my own life. And I’m not saying that there aren’t degrees of sin, only that our rankings are not usually those of God.

One of the things that let me know that my theology of the Lord’s Supper / Communion / the Eucharist needed some work was when I realized that the God of the New Testament is still a “smiting” God, and seeing what he smote people over. I think that most people remember the story of Ananias and Sapphira (not the same disciple Ananias from chapter 9). I’ll let you refresh your memory on that one and say no more about it here.

But it was the example from 1 Cor. 11 that caught my attention. With all the junque going on at Corinth, including possible incest (cf. 5.1), why is it that some are dying? Because they take Communion in an unworthy manner (vv. 29-30). All the immorality and strife in Corinth, and this is why God smites some of them. Hmmm... Sounds like God takes the Eucharist a whole lot more seriously that I did back in my Fightin’ Fundy days. (And I suppose that some day I might have to post a rumination on John 6, but not tonight.)

But what provokes me into posting my own thoughts for once instead of just quoting someone else is a statement in the inventory I posted below this one. When I took the “quiz” the statement showed up at #24; revisiting now it’s at #53. So the order apparently changes when you visit quizfarm. Be that as it may, this was the prompt:
Homosexuality is one of the worst sins
Even as a Bible-thumping Reagan Republican (I was precinct party chairman at age 18), I knew that this was simply not true. Stick with me for a moment, and I’ll show you how I know that there are far worse sins.

Way back in the day, my co-religionists typically referred to homosexuality as “Sodomy,” named obviously for that horrid city of wickedness that had fire and brimstone rained down upon it for its sins. And like my co-religionists, I assumed that the sin that broke the camel’s back was the attempted homosexual rape of God’s messengers. But then God told me otherwise.

Oh, don’t worry. I didn’t hear His voice in my ear while meditating with recreational chemicals. No, I just read the prophets. And among them, I read Ezekiel. Ezekiel 16 in particular, where God is sternly warning His people about what they deserve. Verses 48-50 run like this:
As I live, says the Lord GOD, I swear that your sister Sodom, with her daughters, has not done as you and your daughters have done! And look at the guilt of your sister Sodom: she and her daughters were proud, sated with food, complacent in their prosperity, and they gave no help to the poor and needy. Rather, they became haughty and committed abominable crimes in my presence; then, as you have seen, I removed them.
So what sins were most important in the mind of God? Which did He feel the need to specify? Sins very similar to those by which He separates the sheep from the goats (Mt. 25.31ff.).

So next time you find your knickers in a twist over something as boring and unoriginal as sexual sins and “perversions” born of simple attraction and loneliness, take that energy and turn it positive. Go to a hospital, a prison, a shut-in. Take a homeless person to lunch. God apparently takes our own lack of active compassion much more seriously than he takes acts of homosexuality.

1 comment:

UltraCrepidarian said...

I dislike with the modern penchant to completely discard the seriousness of sin, and on the other hand, I find I myself waffle between scrupulosity and rank hypocrisy, on my own personal failures.

I think there are some grave, and horrific things that happen when you give in to the temptations that those with same-sex attractions will certainly have. Those things are personally destructive, and damage society as well.

That being said, it can be a little bit hard to see why there's more of a stigma around homosexual sins, than straight fornication, which are identical and equally abhorrent in the eyes of God, as far as I can see.