Sin is one of those things that most of us would rather not talk about. I know I don’t like to even think about it. I spent many years with guilt about real and supposed sins of my youth. It’s been hard to overcome this guilt and receive the love of God. Now I prefer to talk about God’s love and grace.
I remember when the definition of sin was pretty easy. After the Ten Commandments, the big ones, there were the little ones of my youth, like playing cards, wearing make-up, and going to the movies. It’s just easier when someone gives you a list. You can look at the list, say yes, I did, or no, I didn’t, and you’re good to go. If you had to answer yes to something, you follow the prescription of confession, repentance, and you’re done with it. Now the definition of sin is not so easy. Oh the big ones, the Ten Commandments are still there. Although it seems we are increasingly glossing over some of those as well as reinterpret their meaning.
I took a class at seminary that really gave me a lot to think about. I really loved that class. It always made me think. As I think about sin today it’s not so easy. Maybe sin is not the right word. But I think I like it better than a more wishy-washy term like my theological or Christian ethical perspective. How you think and what you stand for is important. If you are wrong, it might make you sin. Unfortunately, the things I consider today are not on a handy dandy sin checklist.
I learned a lot from Dr. Ron Sisk in Christian Ethics. I wish I was in his class now. Maybe we would discuss the current events. We would probably discuss the killing of Bin Laden. We would view it under the microscope of scripture, and perhaps the early church fathers. More recent theologians like Niebuhr and Bonheoffer would lend their voices. We’d probably talk about Shane Claiborne. So many different interpretations. So many different view points. It’s hard.
A friend of mine wrote an excellent blog on the killing of Bin Laden. It seems a lot of believers are questioning their thoughts and feelings on the matter. That encourages me. It also lets me know that I am not alone in my quandary. I remember how I felt after 9/11. I remember the t-shirt I often wore in those days following. It was one I made myself with a beautiful picture of the twin towers taken from the Staten Island Ferry just the year before. I put the words, we will never forget. I haven’t.
I remember that I struggled with a sense of hatred. I actually didn’t give my hatred much thought at the time. I’ve grown spiritually a whole lot since then I guess. Now I question those type of feelings in light of the gospel and the work of Jesus.
Dr. Sisk taught me that it is necessary to ask the hard ethical questions. I can’t be neutral. I have to craft answers to ethical questions. This one is so hard though. I remember his words that gave me pause. He said one day that every time the state or the federal government executes someone in the name of the people, that's you too. You share some responsibility for that death. Some of us would rejoice that we had a part in the killing of a perpetrator of a heinous crime. Other's don't want any blood on our hands.
Then there is Jesus. He said those difficult words about loving our enemies. Dr. Sisk taught me was that Jesus is the normative norm. Jesus life and words trump vengeance and call for mercy. If I am a follower of Jesus, what does that mean?