Tuesday, June 14, 2011

A Light View of Sin

One of the problems plaguing the church and society in general is a low view of sin.  Ask most people to define sin, and even if they don't use that word, they will usually define it as harm done against another person.  But, sin, according to the Bible is directed, first and foremost, against God.

Part of the reason sin is so heinous is who it is committed against.  If I took a knife and cut apart a worm, you might think that is not a good thing.  But you probably wouldn't lose any sleep over it.  If I took a knife and cut apart a cat, you would be rightly appalled.  But if I took a knife and cut apart a two year old boy or girl, you would send me to prison for the rest of my life, and some would argue for the death penalty for such depraved indifference.  The sin increases the closer we get to the image of God.  But our sin is directed not against any of his creatures, primarily, but against the Creator himself!  How awful and heinous sin really is!  None of us can truly comprehend its enormity, for it is committed against the infinite, glorious Lord of heaven and earth.

The superficial attitude we have toward sin has been satirized by a rewriting of one of the prayers of confession in the Book of Common Prayer:

"Benevolent and easy-going Father: we have occasionally been guilty of errors of judgment.  We have lived under the deprivations of heredity and disadvantages of environment.  We have sometimes failed to act in accordance with common sense.  We have done the best we could in the circumstances; and have been careful not to ignore the common standards of decency; and we are glad to think we are fairly normal.  Do thou, O Lord, deal lightly with our infrequent lapses.  Be thy own sweet Self with those who admit they are not perfect; According to the unlimited tolerances which we have a right to expect from thee.  And grant us as indulgent Parent that we may hereafter continue to live a harmless and happy life and keep our self-respect."

In comparison to this satirical and shallow prayer, consider three general confessions of sins that the church has used over the years.  The first is from the Book of Common Prayer, the second is from Bucer's Strassburg liturgy, and the third is from the Lutheran Hymnall of 1941:
"Almighty God, Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, maker of all things, judge of all men: We acknowledge and bewail our manifold sins and wickedness, which we from time to time most grievously have committed, by thought, word, and deed, angainst thy divine Majesty, provoking most justly thy wrath and indignation against us.  


We do earnestly repent, and are heartily sorry for these our misdoings; the remembrance of them is grievous to us, the burden of them is intolerable.  Have mercy upon us, have mercy upon us, most merciful Father; for thy Son our Lord Jesus Christ's sake, forgive us all that is past; and grant that we may ever hereafter serve and please thee in newness of life to the honor and glory of thy Name; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen."
From the Strassburg liturgy: 
"Almighty, eternal God and Father, we confess and acknowledge unto thee that we were conceived in unrighteousness and are full of sin and transgression in all our life.  We do not fully believe thy Word nor follow thy holy commandments.  Remember thy goodness, we beseech thee, and for thy Name's sake be gracious unto us, and forgive us our iniquity which, alas, is great.  Amen."
From the Lutheran Hymnal of 1941:
"Almighty God, our Maker and Redeemer, we poor sinners confess unto Thee that we are by nature sinful and unclean and that we have sinned against Thee by thought, word and deed.  Wherefore we flee for refuge to Thine infinite mercy, seeking and imploring Thy grace for the sake of our Lord Jesus Christ."

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