Category Archive: Sin

May 8, 2008

Stock Names for Sin

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In a discussion of Eve’s fall into sin in Milton’s Paradise Lost, C. S. Lewis reminds us of the way our minds begin to embrace sin:

No man, perhaps, ever at first described to himself the act he was about to do as Murder, or Adultery, or Fraud, or Treachery, or Perversion; and when he hears it so described by other men he is (in a way) sincerely shocked and surprised.  Those others “don’t understand.”  If they knew what it had really been like for him, they would not use those crude “stock” names.  With a wink or a titter, or in a cloud of muddy emotion, the thing has slipped into his will as something not very extraordinary, something of which, rightly understood and in all his highly peculiar circumstances, he may even feel proud.  If you or I, reader, ever commit a great crime, be sure we shall feel very much more like Eve than like Iago. — A Preface to Paradise Lost, p. 126.

Part of the way in which we avoid confronting our own sins, then, is by giving other names to them.  It’s not “murder”; it’s “euthanasia” or “abortion.”  It’s not “adultery”; it’s a “love affair.”

On top of that, of course, we also often try to keep our minds from thinking about the sins we’re about to commit, including keeping from naming them, even to ourselves.  We don’t say, “Now I’m going to have a fit of rage.”  Instead, we simply rage, and then, perhaps because we refused to name the sin when we chose to commit it, we act as if it somehow just happened: “I just blew up!”  A man may not say to himself, “I’m going to go and look at some pornography.”  He says, “I feel like surfing the web,” and then he refuses to name just what he’s looking for.  But somehow he finds it.

And when we’re confronted on the sins, our minds start casting about for ways to explain them away, to justify ourselves, again using words other than the “stock” names: “I wasn’t raging; I was a bit irritable, that’s all.  It wasn’t really adultery.  I’m married, yes, but that’s really only on paper.  For all intents and purposes, my marriage is really over and so, if only you understood my unique circumstances, you’d see that what I was doing was really okay.  It wasn’t as serious and as terrible as you make it out to be.”

So part of our calling as Christians, and part of the church’s calling and the pastor’s calling, is to call sins by their real names, by the “stock” names, the names that we shy away from, the names that reveal our sins for what they really are.

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Posted by John Barach @ 3:11 pm | Discuss (2)
January 17, 2008

Cleaning House

Category: Sin :: Link :: Print

An old blog entry by Doug Wilson:

Once there were two homes, and there were the same number of children in each household — I think it was around four or five. But beyond this, the similarities in the households disappeared. One of them was clean and tidy, and the other was just a few steps short of a disaster. Now what was the difference between the two homes? It was not that in the first home, the children never spilled or dropped anything. It was not that the second home was the one that had all the accidents. Rather, in the clean home, when a mess was made, it was dealt with right away. In the messy home, the motto was always “tomorrow.”

Now we can understand something about confession of sin from this. Christians whose lives are not cluttered and messy are not Christians who never sin. They are rather Christians who pick it up right after they spilled it. They do not wait for a mess to fix itself. They do not postpone doing what they know needs to be done. But a Christian whose life is in spiritual shambles is one who drops something, and then drops something else to cover the first thing up. And pretty soon, the living room of his heart overwhelms him with its clutter. He does not know where to start.

But our parable has another twist. While physical cleanliness provides us with a good illustration of this principle, what are we to make of a perfectionist neatnik, one who makes all his roommates miserable through his insistence that all the Campbell soup cans in the cupboard be stacked with all the labels facing the same way? What are we to make of the mother, who fiercely corrects her children’s manners at the dinner table, and does so in a way that shows that she has the worst manners in the family?

The legalist loves to live by rule, and not by understanding. Many times, a dirty room is the sign of a dirty heart. This is a great trouble. But far greater, and far harder to deal with, is the situation when a spotless home is the sign of a filthy heart.

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Posted by John Barach @ 3:37 pm | Discuss (0)