This is the week of Easter, what is sometimes referred to as Passion or Holy Week. It is when Christians remember in a variety of ways Jesus' death on the Cross, our Lord's answer to the problem sin. It is fitting that last week the Vatican released an expansion of the seven deadly sins (http://www.cnn.com/2008/LIVING/wayoflife/03/13/new.sins/?iref=mpstoryview) that reflect our technological and scientific advancements like genetic manipulation or ruining the environment. It is a good time to reflect on and consider what sin is.
In one of the readings my wife Carolyn is doing for her daily devotional, something she is admirably faithful about, she commented on a sentence that struck her: "…all sin is, at its root, a refusal to love." (Lent and Easter Wisdom from Thomas Merton). In today's relativistic, postmodern world where like trash, one person's sin may be another person's virtue, I wonder if "sin" is even a word that has any meaning. Significantly and thankfully, I am apparently wrong. According to Ellison Research (http://ellisonresearch.com/releases/20080311.htm) 87% of Americans, whether religiously involved or not, believe in the concept of sin defined as "something that is almost always considered wrong, particularly from a religious or moral perspective." In a list of thirty behaviors and activities ranked as sinful, adultery tops the list with 81% agreement. I wonder what kind of list would be formulated when sin is defined as a refusal to love instead of something that is considered morally wrong. I am afraid for me it would be a very long list of daily offenses.
I believe most of us think that we would never refuse to love. How could we imagine doing such a thing? It is not too difficult for me to think of myself as someone who can and has sinned but I do not like considering myself as someone who refuses to love. This makes me question what love is. It raises questions like what does refusing to love look like. When and where am I refusing to love? How do I know if I truly loving someone? What does refusing to love have to do with genetic manipulation or even adultery? If I am willing to love does that make me free from sinning?
The Bible tells us that Jesus' death on the Cross is God's love in action (John 3:16). It tells us that God is love and that Jesus is the perfect picture of love (1 John 3:16). And this same verse tell us what our love needs to look like, being willing to give up our lives for one another. This should sound familiar; this is what Jesus did for us on the Cross. Apparently, we are to do the same thing for each other. The root of sin, then is being unwilling to put others first. How simple and how difficult this is.