I’ve always struggled with the way Christians talk about “sin.” The faith tradition in which I grew up tended to talk a lot more about sin than we Presbyterians do. Not a Sunday went by without an invitation to acknowledge my depravity, confess my sins and cling to Jesus for refuge.
I became Presbyterian because I wanted to be part of a faith tradition that refused to talk about sin without first proclaiming God’s love.
It wasn’t until my senior year in seminary that the notion of sin filtered back to the surface of my religious experience. After spending a few years “settling into” the life of our denomination, I began to notice the conspicuous absence of authentic conversations about this formative doctrine. I started to wonder: Are we missing something by giving up the language of sin in our articulation of the good news about Jesus?
On its most basic level, sin is the transgression of God’s law. “Sin” is theological shorthand for the mistakes and failures that separate us from God and others while preventing us from realizing God’s dreams for our lives. Sin is also a force in history. As many theologians would say, it’s the voice that cries out, “No!” whenever God shouts, “Yes!” We are empowered to unmask injustice, oppose hatred and advocate for unity because we recognize the forces that separate people from one another are an outgrowth of humanity’s separation from God because of sin.
Throughout this Lenten season, we’ve been asking challenging questions about sin, grace, and forgiveness in Youth Gathering on Sunday mornings. We’ve pondered what it means to be a community of faith where the darkest places of our lives encounter the light of divine grace and healing. We’ve asked ourselves what it means to be a people who gather in corporate confession so that we might be sent out into the world to unmask sin when we see it.
As we approach Holy Week, the youth of our congregation are working diligently to prepare for their roles in leading the Good Friday service at noon in the Sanctuary.
On Good Friday, youth and adults alike will catch a glimpse of sin’s consequence. The polished brass of our Sanctuary cross will glisten as candles cast their light on the sacred symbol of our faith, a weapon used by the state to execute a criminal, now transformed into a symbol for eternal life. Is there anywhere on earth a more visible sign of God’s love amidst the brokenness of human life? Surrounded by dim light and entranced by hushed tones flowing thoughtfully from young lips, might we hear the whisper of God’s “Yes” as it grows louder into Easter’s full-throated defiance of sin’s “No” to God’s promise of redemption?