Most people I’ve met have a very well defined concept of what sin is. It is defined either as an act of culpability that God not only frowns upon, but despises. There are some who define sin as an archaic useless term, that reflects religious controls and fear mongering. Then there are others that would see sin as simply a missing of the mark, which is not about culpability but rather about inability. I am inclined towards this third ideal.
Sticking with the metaphor of learning to walk again, before we can walk, we need to learn to stand. If the goal is standing, then falling down in our attempts is definitely missing the mark. It’s not because I willfully decide I will fall down as I am learning, it is simply I do not yet have the ability to stand solid on my feet. When anyone falls, there is a moment of great anxiety on the way down, there is the thud and the bump that happens when I hit the ground, and then there is the angst of, “What will I do next?” Do I try again, do I stay down here for a while, do I cry? I think this image of falling down is a really helpful one in understanding the true nature of what sin is – it is simply learning to stand, but falling down.
I don’t think I have ever met anyone who does something overtly wrong – “wrong” defined as harmful to themselves or another – because they are simply bad. Everyone that I have met is trying to make sense of life, trying to make life work for them, but the inability to make life work for them can have terrible consequences.
This is where those of us who desire to grow and learn to walk with God in His garden state discover a beautiful truth that is also a little confronting, and that is – we all need help.
We need encouragement, we need people to model for us, we need a power greater than ourselves to restore us to sanity, we need people who understand what falling down is and have learnt to embrace the learning process rather than attempting to eradicate it from their lives with concepts. I am describing people who understand grace, who understand that all favour is unmerited because all are worthy of favour. All are worthy of love. These are people who understand the process of life, and that what we define as “falling down”, God most likely defines as “falling up”. This is because whenever we fall, we are always falling into His hands of love, which in my estimate is a good thing.
Finding these people may seem like a daunting task, but I believe it begins by becoming one of these people, as we attract what we are. If a need is driving us, we attract people with the same need, which usually doesn’t go very well. If the desire to grow is driving us, we will attract people who desire to grow. It’s like the law of the universe – what you seek, what you focus on – you will find. By “your focus” I don’t mean visualise a better future, I mean if I focus on the fact that I’m not evil, that my brokenness is not a point of shame but rather a place of humility and grace, then I invite other people to speak into my life, to become my friends, mentors, brothers and sisters. All of us need help when we are learning to stand, and we all need a lot more help when we are learning to walk. Both are terrifying undertakings, but both are part of growing up. It actually takes great maturity to embrace this truth.
Our immature culture wants us to judge weakness and venerate strength. A Christ-culture wants us to embrace weakness and be forever suspicious of all that appears strong.
So how do you understand sin? Is it culpability with an angry God? Is it a useless idea that religion uses to control you? Or, is it simply missing the mark? While learning to stand – coming alive – we often fall, hit the ground, and have to face a new rising.