The problem of sin

Posted: November 22, 2011 in Accusations, Turning away from God
Tags: , , , ,

I’m not going to lie. I know that I am a sinner, made clean through the death of Jesus. Every day I screw up in some way or other – I do something that is dishonouring to God and often something which is horrible to those around me. I am a sinner.

I think it is both easy and difficult to define sin. In many ways, the simple explanation is “sin is something which involves turning your back on God”. And that is definitely true. But someone once asked me whether I would consider someone who was acting in a particular way due to illness as a sinner – maybe someone who was bi-polar on a high behaving in a way that was not their normal self. Would I?

There are people who would answer yes to that question. But there are also many others who would say no. I was one of the yes people, until I realised that that was how I was seeing myself and my self-harm. Self-harm is a mental illness, which makes us behave in a way that we wouldn’t normally. If that is the case, can we really describe our self-harm as sin?

Sin grabs us and takes hold. Yes. But the devil also makes us feel guilty about the things that we can’t control. Instead of feeling guilty about my “illness”, I needed a new way to think about it. Yes, what I was doing did not honour and glorify God, and represented me turning my back on the future he has for me, but it was not like stealing from a shop or murdering someone.

Do not fall into the trap of seeing yourself as a worse sinner than anyone else because of an illness, whether self-harm, anorexia, bulimia, depression, or whatever. The Fall had many consequences, and a broken world was one of them. This is why sin is so difficult to define.

What does it mean for us that our actions arise from brokenness rather than sin? It doesn’t mean that it is ok to give into the temptation to self-harm. But it means that our confession and our cry out to God can come from a different place, a place that can be free from guilt and shame.

  1. emma says:

    Great, thoughtful post – and site. Thanks for your wisdom and honesty.

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