Sin, Baby, Sin

Sin.

What does the word bring to mind?

It’s just three letters, and the “i” is pretty skinny. But the word can really generate a lot of heat.

Sin, Sinner, Sinful…

To be honest? I kind of like it. It makes me laugh. It brings to mind Dana Carvey’s Church Lady. It sounds decadent like Sin City. Anyone up for Vegas after this? Or once there was Sinful Chocolate Cake on a menu. HummmmBaby, if that cake was wrong, I didn’t wanna’ be right.

But the word can provoke other reactions too. It has a lot to do with tone and delivery. When it’s bellowed through a microphone, accompanied with a pointed finger or filled to the brim with so much condemnation that big gooey bits of judgement drip off  like dog slobber, well, then I don’t like the word at all.

And I don’t laugh one single bit. I sort of wince. My eyes get all squinty. My breath only goes about chest level instead of all the way deep.

I’ve heard the word used like that plenty.

My friend, Heather Kopp, had a post last week on her blog that prompted my thoughts about this.

How do you define sin? Is it a laundry list of dos and don’ts? Is it the same for everyone or does it vary person by person?

I participated in a program one time that used a definition I had never heard before:

That which separates you from a loving relationship with God.

No name calling. No blame. No lists. No judgement. Just a shorthand label for the STUFF. The STUFF in your way of feeling connected to God. To God who wants to walk through the Garden with you. God who wants you to stop shrieking about the wind and enjoy the boat ride. God.

Ohhhhhhh… I don’t know if that definition will help anyone pass theology 101, but it sure helped me get over my issue with those three little letters and focus on the important parts.

And it turns out that chocolate cake wasn’t sinful  because it tasted DIVINE.

Okay, really though, using this definition was like taking a pin to the over-inflated balloon that was pressing me up against the wall. All that extra hot air from the blowhards was released and I could breathe to the deep places. I could look at my stuff and deal with it because I wasn’t in a corner cringing, panting and all squinty-eyed.

Using this definition wasn’t any sort of get-out-of-hell-free card though. Using this definition of sin goes beyond any lists. You can’t sit around with your back ramrod straight and say, Well, I don’t do THAT, so I’m just fine.

Using the definition of sin as anything that separates you from God makes you look at everything. In all the nooks, crannies and under the rugs. Because it’s not about a list or feeling safe, it’s about getting to the best part: a loving relationship with God.

Now, about that trip to Vegas…