Sunday, October 05, 2008

Whose sins are the worst?

I think, if the leader of a Christian worship service called, "Will the worst sinner please stand up?", that invitation ought to have the same effect as the phrase, "Let the congregation please rise." Everyone should come readily to his or her feet.

When we consider sin in general, it is easy to look around at society and see the unjust systems with obscene levels of sin on the national and international levels. In comparison with these outrageous sins, our own sins can be made to seem paltry, beneath notice, unworthy of mention. This is election season; repentance often is just a misnomer for mudslinging when the sins identified are always someone else's. It is tempting for us to discuss sin as if our own worst sin is to be inextricably trapped in an unjust system of someone else's making, tainted by someone else's sin which we loathe, blind to our own sins with which we are as unhealthily comfortable as a baby with a loaded diaper.

One pastor taught me this, which has blessed me for years: if ever I should be tempted to see sin as someone else's problem, to discuss sin but identify the worst of sinners as someone else, I have left behind grace. St Paul once identified himself as the worst of sinners. It would even be convenient for us to agree with Paul, not that "I" am the worst of sinners, but that he was the worst of sinners. St Paul had the right spirit and attitude on this: that the first sin we should condemn is always our own. As Jesus said, first we should get the log out of our own eyes. If our confession is, "Lord, I regret that I am caught up in someone else's sins and haven't done enough to stop other people -- you know, the detestable ones -- from sinning" -- then that is no confession at all. As Luther once said to Melanchthon: you have real sins and you are a real sinner; be glad, because real sins are the only kind of sins that God forgives.

3 comments:

Anastasia Theodoridis said...

My own sins are the only ones that are ultimately relevant to me.

Weekend Fisher said...

And I suppose my own sins are the only ones that, likewise, are relevant to me.

The temptations to focus on other peoples' sins are everywhere. It's in our self-interest to run looking after someone else's sins rather than our own. Evil, but natural ...

Take care & God bless
Anne / WF

Tony-Allen said...

Thanks for posting this!

I've always said the sum of all sins are equal, because ultimately a sin is our flesh's struggle to separate us from God - all we can do is struggle back.

A Protestant preacher I really admire, Dr. Charles Stanley, once pointed out the fallacy of saying, "I'm good because I'm not as bad as this person," or "This person is bad because of what they do." Ultimately it becomes subjective. If you say, "I'm not that bad," well who are you comparing yourself too? Compared to Mother Theresa?"

You're spot on when you say that when a person says, "Will the worst sinner please stand up?" every one in the room should stand. We all have our sins, no matter what amount or form. It's our personal temptation, and we should strive our whole life to do away with it.