Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Sin and the Sinner... What Do We Do With That?

We say that we 'love the sinner, and hate the sin,' but what does that mean?

Why do we hate the sin? For the sake of hating sin? I think if that's the case, we're missing the point.

Does God hate sin for the sake of hating sin? Is he holy for the sake of making a bunch of rules and judgments?

I don't think so. I think he hates anything that hurts us, that has the potential to cause us harm. I think he wants us 'to be holy as he is holy' for our sake, to keep us from harmful activities, thought processes, etc.  I think he hates whatever hurts us. Why? Because he loves us that much.

Is this our motivation for hating sin? Because our love for others causes us to hate anything that could cause another person harm or keep them from being whole, happy, healthy? Or do we hate sin because 'the Bible says so,' yet we never stop to wonder why it might say that. I believe God has a very practical side to him, and I don't think we consider that as much as we should.

Personally, I think a lot of people who say, 'love the sinner, hate the sin,' don't know what the crap they mean by that. I think too many people abuse that, use it as a cop-out. Some, if they were honest, would have to admit that what they're really interested in is hating the sin and berating the sinner. I think sometimes we do that out of our own insecurities. We feel we don't measure up so we deflect and put the spotlight on others' shortcomings so maybe people won't notice our own.

If we really love, if our motivation is love, we need to demonstrate that love. That's not always easy. It's not always a clear path either. It can be messy. It can be confusing. It can be frustrating to live in the tension, in the gray. I say gray because as I get older, I realize life is not as black and white as I was taught it was. There is a lot of gray in the world. I can also say that it seems easy to 'hate a sin,' but the moment you put a face to it...well, it gets a little harder. At least it should. You realize that the sin is attached to a person, and that person needs love, understanding and mercy, not judgement. That's when it gets really messy. And it should. We should have to wrestle with that. It shouldn't be easy.

So why do you really hate the sin? And in what ways do you show the sinner love? And here's another question...is it really a sin or is it just something you don't like or participate in? I've come to realize that some of the things I grew up being taught were sins weren't really sins at all according to Scriptures but were personal convictions that someone placed on everyone else and labeled as sins.

Actually this post is not new. I've had it in my draft folder for quite some time, but I realized that it's a recurring theme in my unpublished posts. Guess it's time to get it out there. I've said this a lot...and been criticized a lot for what I'm about to say, but here it is nonetheless: We struggle with the balance between mercy and judgement; but if we must err, let us err on the side of mercy.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Hope Discovers The Action of Non-Action

My husband is not a complicated man, yet he perplexes me and has done so for years.

I am a woman of action in most circumstances. If something needs to be said, I say it. Since I don't have much of a filter, that gets me into trouble sometimes, but at least the elephant in the room gets a 'shout out.' If something needs to be done, I don't wait for permission. I get to work. Sometimes I get bogged down because I see so many things that need my attention, but at least someone is doing something.

And then there's that laid-back, go-with-the-flow husband of mine who sometimes seems blissfully ignorant of the stress and problems that surrounds us. He's calm. He's patient. He smiles. He's content. He listens. He considers.

He doesn't react. And that has driven me crazy for years! To say that I have been befuddled is quite the understatement. I am animated enough for the both of us I suppose, but in some of the circumstances we've been in, I just could not understand for the life of me how he could just NOT react!

And then I met a Hindu and a Buddhist while in college in my religious studies courses. And I began to understand. Now I am no expert on these religions. Not even close. But over the course of a couple of semesters, I came to understand a little bit about the action of non-action. In Christianity, we have a similar teaching for this. James 1:19 says, "My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry."

It's not non-action. It doesn't mean you don't do anything because you're lazy and apathetic. It's more like the 'action of non-action.' It takes discipline. It takes practice...for some of us, more than others. It takes a conscious decision. And it can be powerful.

My husband and I actually put this into practice together a while back. We had a situation arise, and we both made the decision to not engage. We chose to take the course of non-action. He took the lead because he is the more experienced one in this area. And I was simply astounded! I watched as situations unfolded and worked themselves out. There were times I wanted to intervene, but I chose not to. I did vent to some trusted friends, though. The weight of the world did not rest on my shoulders, and my stress level was minimal. It worked itself out before my very eyes! Now I prayed like crazy during this time, but chose not to act because it wasn't the right thing to do here.

Now is this how things normally happen when you choose the action of non-action? I don't know. I am new to this. Does this mean you should never react? I don't think so. I think there is a balance. I think discernment is needed.

As I look back on my parenting style, I realize I kind of did this with my kids. There were many times, I didn't react. I stepped back and let them learn on their own. I let them realize there were consequences to their actions. I let them learn responsibility. I let them learn social skills. But there were times I had to intervene. It took some practice, but I eventually learned when to act and when not to. My kids have turned out pretty good. I can't complain. I really can't.

So maybe I'm not too bad at this action of non-action after all, but I still don't hold a candle to my husband. There is hope for me, though I don't see myself choosing the action of non-action when I witness the injustices of referees on a basketball court. Baby steps. One thing photography has taught me is that I don't have to know everything or be perfect at everything, I just have to be better than last week. I think I might can manage that.

To actively act or to non-actively act...yes, that is the question. God, grant me the wisdom to know when to apply each in my life.