When I hear the word sin I cringe. I’m embarrassed to admit my response when a preacher uses it from the pulpit. I shut down. My history has it packed with shame and imagery of loud men yelling. I don’t respond well to loud, yelling men telling me I’m not worthy – I hear worthless.
After years of rebellion, I’m hearing it in a new light and it resonates.
I’ve always known the word sin, translated from the Greek, means missing the mark. Learning this years ago helped a lot. It gave me permission to remove the shame, thereby discharging its power to set off my self-loathing meter. Progress, not perfection. But missing the mark still left me associating the word with people who might judge me or were holier than thou, not compassionate and loving.
Sin, to my way of thinking, described and singled out whatever behaviors the religious wanted to condemn. In other words, it might be drinking alcohol or a woman speaking in church. Perhaps it was dancing for some, and adultery to others. Shame attached to it was the common denominator. I knew my life included some of what was lumped into the ‘sin’ category so the thought of going to church was never a ‘get to’. It wouldn’t end well. When I’d muster up the courage to go, I’d usually leave feeling worthless and discouraged knowing I’d never measure up to their standards – which translated to God’s in this context. It didn’t resonate.
Recently, I’ve heard sin defined as lack of love toward yourself, God, or your neighbor – and when we boil it all down, that sounds about right. At the root of anything that misses the mark in our lives is something that doesn’t serve us. In even simpler terms, we’re either moving towards God or away from God…and when we’re off the path that leads to our highest good, whether we call that God or not, it can be referred to as sin.
This way of understanding the word sin gives us the opportunity to grow into who we are. It’s essentially about becoming. Becoming our highest selves. Our highest selves that are connected to – and of – God.
I can live with the word sin when it’s framed like that. What about you?