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Sunday, February 17, 2013

Sin as Secondary to Criticism

Again, it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted his wealth to them. To one he gave five bags of gold, to another two bags, and to another one bag, each according to his ability....His master replied [to the man who secured the one bag of gold] “You wicked, lazy servant!.... So take the bag of gold from him and give it to the one [who had five and earned five more]....And throw that worthless servant outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Matthew 25:14 and following: NIV, bolding mine).

For many human beings who wish to do the right thing and who make every effort to do so, sin is in some sense a secondary challenge. Sin is not their major source of fear nor does it create the undertow of guilt and anxiety that constantly afflicts them. Christianity affirms that Jesus died for our sins. Many can be forgiven for wishing for a savior from the repressive aftermath of innocent blunders and disastrous mistakes made even when trying hard and doing one's best. In a sense, the recognition of sin is self-corrective. When a youth I blabbed in a ridiculing way about children with Down's syndrome. Later I discover the person I was trying to be cute in front of had a brother with it. I was immediately convicted of the sin and swore never to repeat it. Compare this to the chronic fear I have of formal public speaking. I suffer greatly from fear of making stumbling mistakes and disintegrating completely into utter failure—of looking like an inept fool. And if I do stumble during presentation, my self-loathing and yoke of guilt can be severe and long-lasting—deeply caustic to my sense of self-worth. Thus, surely not for me only, salvation from a sense of inadequacy and fear of failure would do much to alleviate widely experienced intellectual and emotional suffering and serve to free humanity for productive service and happiness. To tell the truth, sometimes I think it is a toss-up which human vulnerability—sin or innocent failure—does the most harm to the psyche.

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