What understanding of sin would draw folks into the desert to confess, repent, and be baptized? I’m sure there’s theological scholarship on this, but I don’t know it. Instead, I’m left with the ideas about sin that we absorb and invent for ourselves.
I absorbed the message that Eve’s sin tainted the bloodline forevermore, like a congenital disease. Jesus was the chemotherapy for everlasting death.
I absorbed the message that my sins of commission and omission separated me from God as if I were in Seattle and God were in Hawaii. Jesus was my ticket to sunshine.
I absorbed the message that sin was personal, like a credit card bill I racked up but that only Jesus could afford to pay off.
I invented the message (that I should probably have left in middle school) that sin was like flatulence, inevitable, shameful, but usually easy to hide. Jesus might know, but if it doesn’t cause problems for others, we can all politely pretend my sin wasn’t a serious offense.
I invented the message that sin has a valve like a sewage pipeline. By my choices in ethics and friends and hobbies, I could keep sin to a trickle. Jesus could help me monitor the knob.
I invented the message that sin is offset by holy habits and a few sparkling acts of kindness. Jesus isn’t crucial in this little myth.
I don’t have a theology of sin that would make me leave work and shirk home duties to go listen to a prophet. I certainly wouldn’t stand for hours in a long line to be dunked in a dirty river by a strange man.
What did these early believers know about sin that I’m missing?
What messages about sin have you absorbed and invented? How do they shape your spiritual life?
God, help us go to great lengths to confess our sins, receive your pardon, and move forward to think, feel, and act out of your deeper well of love. Amen.