I don’t know if anyone reads blogs, or my blogs, but I have the urge to write and, by God, I’m going to write!
A good friend of mine told me last night that he hasn’t yet decided exactly what “sin” is. We talked about ambition and he gave me a pretty good definition for it (that was one word that I hadn’t yet defined for myself yet). His definition was simply, “Setting and working toward goals”. That works for me, and it means that I’m “ambitious”.
I don’t have many goals these days, though. I went through a period recently where I had gobs of them–and I even wrote them down in order of priority and time–but I’ve accomplished a whole lot of them. I’ve reached a kind of equilibrium in life, where things just get better, on the whole, and my life pretty much reflects my will.
I do have a few goals, though, mostly financial: pay off these bills by that date and stuff like that. Someday I’d like to live off income from rental properties, but that’s a few years away, I think. I need two years of W-2s before I can get most decent mortgage loans, so I might as well just beef up my credit rating in the meantime. Besides, I think property values are overinflated right now and I’d like to see them crash–er, come down a bit–before I invest in them.
Back to sin. To understand the word as we know it, you have to understand a bit about the idea’s origin. We owe this concept to the Bible, both the Old and New Testaments. To the Hebrews of the Old Testament, it seems to me that sin was an offense against Yahweh (translated “the LORD” in your Bible), their tribal deity. When people sinned against Yahweh, they “atoned” for their sin by spilling the blood of an animal; the value of the proscribed animal to be sacrificed depended on the person’s degree of sin. It could be a bird or a cow.
The Hebrews had something like 612 commandments, all listed in Deuteronomy, I think. (No, there weren’t just 10!) Some sins, like murder, witchcraft, homosexuality, or being a whore, were punishable by death: your own blood for such a grievous sin. (It’s interesting how many Judeo-Christian “sins” involve sex. My own theory is that it was a way to keep your wife from fucking your best friend.)
The Hebrews hadn’t developed the Christian idea of heaven and hell. When you died in the OT, you went to a place called “sheol”, which seems to be like earth, but dimmer or something.
Along came the Christians, with their Greek language and their many different words for religious trespass, all translated into English as “sin”. No wonder it’s so confusing! The literal meanings of these words are as diverse as “error”, “missing the mark (as in archery)”, and “immorality”.
To the Christians, not only did everyone sin, but everyone was BORN into a state of sin (because of Adam and Eve’s original sin of eating the fruit of the knowledge of good and evil). In this sense, being human is a sin, period. (I’m reminded of the saying, “To err is to be human.”)
In Christian thought, sinning is something that ordinary people do, and can’t help doing, and have no power to stop doing. And, even if they did manage to live perfectly, they still have the weight of their past sins to drag them down to Hell after they die. (The word “hell” comes from three Greek words: hades, tartaros, and gehenna–all with different meanings.)
What’s a person to do with all that sin? That’s where Jesus comes in. In Hebrew thought (and Jesus was a Hebrew), blood is the remedy for sin. Christians believe that Jesus lived the perfect life, without sinning, and thus his bloody (and standard, for the Romans) execution atoned for anyone else who deserved punishment for their own sins–and believed that his execution atoned for their own sins. (And, depending on which part of the New Testament you read and which church you attend, if they started to follow the a) Ten Commandments, b) New Testament, c) Republican party, or d) entire Bible.)
So that’s where our modern-day understanding of the religious idea of “sin” comes in. “Sin” is breaking Yahweh’s rules. We could get into a real religious tangle here if we try to discuss WHICH sins Jesus’ death atoned for. All sins, everywhere, anytime, even before he lived? The ones I did before I believed that Jesus’ execution atoned for mine? What about the ones I do afterward? But the Bible says that nobody who is “in him” continues to sin! So are my impure thoughts no longer sins or are they atoned for or am I not really “in him”? And so on…
Anyway, sin is what the people who are “going to hell” do, because they can’t help it because they were “born in sin”. What about those who are “going to heaven”? Who are they? Not everyone who attends church really believes that Jesus’ execution atoned for their own sins. Many of those who do believe continue to break Yahweh’s rules.
But Yahweh’s rules were for the Hebrews anyway. The New Testament says that the law is no more because of Jesus’ execution. It says that Love is the new rule. That’s “agape” in Greek (which neither Jesus nor his disciples spoke, so I have no idea what word they really used).
From a New Testament standpoint (again, depending on where you read), Love is the rule, so sin must be not loving. What is Love?
Most people don’t know what Love is, though they’re familiar with love (small “l”). They love their parents, they love their friends, they love cheese dip or pizza or their dog. That’s fine, but it’s exclusive. You “love” someTHING or someONE, and not someTHING or someONE ELSE. To say that you love something implies that there are things you do NOT love, and it creates an artificial dichotomy (split) in your mind, which is reflected back to you in your experience.
Real Love (capital “L”) has no object. You don’t Love one thing and not another. You live Love; you are Love. You probably don’t know it, but Love is the very ground of your being, your life, who you are. When you strip away all the problems and negativity and, well, sin in yourself, what you have left is Love.
Love is the great Nothing that is Something. It’s Nothing because you’ve thrown out everything you think you love, and it’s Something because it’s everything. To stop loving and start Loving is the true task of your experience!
When you Love, you don’t sin, because you have no desire to. Sin is everything you do that doesn’t have Love as its origin. If you watch football and you love it, you sin. If you watch football and you Love, you don’t sin. If you have sex with your wife and you love her, you sin. If you have sex with your girlfriend and you Love, you don’t sin.
Sin is ignorance of Love, because without Love everything you do is an illusion. Only Love has permanence. When you Love, you Love forever. You have eternal life, here and now.
What is the result of sin? The dominant religious teaching in our society says that you go to hell and burn forever when you die. (What burns forever?) Whatever may happen after death, you won’t live a fulfilled life. You might die happy, to a degree, or you might die miserable.
Unless you pursue and attain real Love, there will be parts of your existence that…just didn’t measure up. There will be things you could have done better and there will be things you will regret. But if you die living Love, you will have only fulfillment and peace, having lived an excellent life.