Pastor viewpoint: Sin is not new, but repetitive
Whether we are priests, pastors or ministers, we share a lot in common — including listening to people. Often we are called upon to listen to people's problems, among which are folks' sins. In some churches there is formal opportunity for this to happen through a rite or sacrament called confession or reconciliation. Whether in a formal setting or not, people often speak with us about sin, for as Christians we look for forgiveness, absolution, some sort of peace, or the easing of an anxious conscious.
This may sound quite interesting, getting the scoop on what people are doing. How exciting to be among the first to learn about the latest craze that is leading people down the road of immorality or the vices that are alive and thriving within our communities. Isn't it good to have the evidence that the world is as bad as we are frequently told it is? Often people tell me of the great burden hearing the sins of others must be, for this is not something we are able to share with others. In truth: it can be quite boring.
Not to suggest that I am ever bored during anyone's confession, unfazed is probably the more appropriate term. Sin is not new — it has been happening since the birth of humanity. The sins we struggle with most are what God wrote about on the tablets with which Moses came down off the mountain:
• Loving God above all else
• Worshipping everything other than him
• Cursing — whether we use his name or not
• Honoring the Sabbath
• Honoring our parents — not simply for those under age 18 — and then extend this to other family members
• Killing — maybe not actually murdering someone, but certainly killing others' spirits by gossip and negativity
• Adultery, just as Jesus said — what we think counts here too, and plagues every generation
• Stealing — yes, spending time at our job looking for deals on cyber Monday or checking the latest spread on the Super Bowl qualifies — so maybe this is something more of us are guilty of than we realize or want to think
• Bearing false witness, which leads us to that great American pastime of judging others
• Wishing we had what the neighbors have, usually "the more we get the more we want," as a sin is alive and well
The good news in all this is that we are committing the same sins, so not adding to the list. Much of the time we could probably tell you your sins before you tell them to us. Sin is not creative or visionary, an invention of great minds seeking new heights, or the product from a flash of inspiration. Sin is repetitive, stupid, mindless and yes — humiliating. But when people come to me with their sins, it leads me to love them all the more, feel joy that cannot be found elsewhere, and know that there is great hope to be found in our world.
The fact that people trust me enough to bare their souls, let me into the dark secrets of their lives, and have the belief in me that I can somehow offer some help tells me I am not a mere acquaintance, even if I have never before met the individual. He or she is my brother or sister, and their sin is what makes us alike. Joyfully, I am holding them in my hands as any parent holds an infant child and as Christ held the sinner, the blind, the deaf or the lame in his own hands. I pray that the joy I feel, they feel as well!
We can speak of all the evils found in our world, their origin and source, and politicians steering us astray from the right or left. The only thing that leads to real change is when we accept the truth that we are all sinners, but that we are all saints as well. God has not given up on any of us, nor should we give up on ourselves. Yes sin has existed for all of humanity, but so has our God's capacity to forgive us. We need to also forgive one another and, sometimes hardest of all, ourselves. So bring us your repetitive, boring sins — we promise not to sigh or judge. We are grateful that you open us to love, experience joy, and see the bright light of hope. I pray we offer these same gifts to you.