Sin and Trust

Sin is secondary to community within the Christian life in the same way that fights and hurt feelings in a relationship are secondary to a lack of trust. In any relationship, specific words and actions are not nearly the most determinant factors in whether that relationship is built or broken. If your assumption about everything the other person says and about how they treat you is that they love you and are trying their best, then the exact same actions will feel entirely different than if you assume that they’re being mean or condescending or don’t actually care about you. To build trust, it is not sufficient to stop saying or doing particular things; it is necessary to develop the emotional intimacy by which you once again see the positive intent behind the actions of an imperfect person.

Often we treat sin as a first order concept; we act as if we get the list right of what counts as sinful words and deeds, then all we have to do is stop doing and saying those things. And, we assume, if we can take that step then Godly community is sure to follow. But, if we first understand the kind of community that sin breaks and the kind of love that God has for us, then no word or action will have the same reality in our lives as it would without the experience of love and community. What makes all the difference is not that we define sin right and stop sinning (both of which would be impossible anyway) but that we are perfected in love in such a way that no word or action overcomes our intimacy with God and one another.

Prayer Like Marriage

The idea that one can say a sinner’s prayer and in so doing become a Christian is a lot like the idea that one can get married and in so doing initiate a solid a relationship. Marriage changes everything…and nothing all at once; just like a momentary prayer of repentance or commitment changes everything and nothing. In reality, there is nothing so practical, simple, or concrete that you can do to ensure a strong relationship. To assume such a transactional result is to assume that relationship is based on control rather than trust. Requiring trust may seem to place faith on shaky ground, but that requirement is also fundamental to the way life, love, and relationship work. In reality, the more we imply that certainty is possible because of some simple prayer or act, the more anxiety we produce. Experiencing the certainty of love comes first and leads to action, never the other way around.

 

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Sin is a secondary concept. That we try to name and respond to sin without a clear conception of the kind of community that sin breaks is a result of the radical individualism of the modern world and a source of our punitive response to brokenness. That we have no concept of the community sin breaks is the main cause of our collective inability to have coherent conversations regarding appropriate contextualization of scriptural morality, the shape and purpose of Godly living, or the meaning of law in scripture or church history.

Moral Ambiguity in Decisions

Objective moral judgments are impossible because there are always more factors than you can account for; to ask one to choose to act on the basis of the given facts is to ask one to choose in a situation that does not and cannot exist. The human life is never disjointed to the extent that you can isolate individual choices or circumstances in which a choice is made; you can only develop the type of character that will render decisions over the course of a life in a way that reflects the nature of God more or less fully, but never approaches some ‘objective’ standard of right or wrong. To make this claim is no less scary than it is true – but while people fear the inability to say definitively that something is right or wrong, the black and white definitions we seek are simply a way for us to deny the need for God’s grace and to control our own lives without the need for a force of judgment and transformation that is more than we can ever create.

 

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To whatever extent it is fair to differentiate between “masculine” and “feminine” ways of being in the world, it is almost always the traditionally feminine (cf – nurture, emotional connection, vulnerability) that is far more capable of embodying the kind of discipleship to which Jesus call us. Moreover, the traditionally masculine (cf – authority in leadership, theological/doctrinal writing, dispassionate detachment) is only capable of reflecting or creating Christ like disciples to the extent that the culture in which those words and forces operate is already deeply shaped by and grounded in the community of love and acceptance made possible by the feminine contribution.