Thursday, April 10, 2014

A Preoccupation with Sin might be Burdensome, but it is also very Healing and Liberating

Many have taken issue with my essay on universalist Carlton Pearson and his denunciation of Christian “sin consciousness.” According to Pearson:

·       "Sin consciousness, something Jesus never taught or encouraged, both prohibits and prevents self-love, something we must learn and re-learn to do, especially when we're brought up in a kind of "hate yourself" religious climate as many were and continue to be, whether, Christian, Jewish or Islamic."

Oddly, many agreed with Pearson, equating “sin consciousness” – the preoccupation with sin – with mental illness. However, this preoccupation is thoroughly biblical. Jesus stated: “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect" (Matthew 5:48), proving that He is very preoccupied with sin. Why? Here’s my response:

It seems that we have left behind what Pearson meant by “sin consciousness” and are now pursuing the question of whether scrupulosity regarding sin is a form of OCD or some other mental disturbance. Okay!

Clearly, the Bible never gives us a pass for only doing 99% percent of the law. Perfection is always the standard. Here is an example:

·       But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: “Be holy, because I am holy.” (1 Peter 15-16)

While, to you, this seems obsessive and a prescription for mental problems, it reflects the wisdom of the Bible. Let me try to explain.

Our natural default position is self-righteousness. We love to think that we are worthy, superior and deserving – the very thing that God abhors. Instead, He wants us to be grateful and humble. Therefore, His law not only reflects His own righteousness, it also presents us with a standard of goodness that we cannot obtain on our own – a standard that should humble us and lead us to seek His mercy and be grateful when we receive it.

Interestingly, perfect adherence to goodness is something that we do and should expect from others. When I don’t treat my wife in a loving manner, she has every reason in the world to expect an apology. It just wouldn’t cut it if I responded, “I don’t want to be overly scrupulous about sin. I think you should just chill!”

Likewise, if I lied to you, you would be down my throat. If I responded, “You’re just uptight about sin,” you wouldn’t receive it.

Maturity is a matter of taking full responsibility for our garbage. God expects this from us, and we expect this from others. However, this is where mercy and healing kicks in. When we confess our sins to God, He forgives. There is nothing more healing when my wife and I confess our sins to one another and receive forgiveness from the other. However, all of this depends upon us taking full responsibility for our sins – call it a “sin consciousness” if you want.

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