Sin and Mercy

Sometimes it all boils down to something simple. For me, it's sin and mercy.

I was reading Sara Miles' book Jesus Freak and came across these lines:
I tried to remember what Jesus preached constantly: mercy. It sounded like an abstract theological principle, but I clung to it to keep me afloat in what was otherwise an inexplicable sea of human sin. Mercy. It was all that could help me give up my self-pity and judgment.
An inexplicable sea of human sin. Whenever Jana and I are trying to explain the stupidity, vanity, meanness, thoughtlessness, shallowness, duplicitousness and self-absorption of ourselves and others we are, more and more often, using this shorthand assessment: "It's just sin."

Which makes us sound like crazy Christian fundamentalists. But the tone we are using is not one of rage and judgment but that of pity, sympathy, and sad resignation. We are, pretty much all the time, a sad and sorry lot. And say what you will about Christian doctrine, but the label "sin" does more to describe the human condition than any term from my discipline of psychology.

And all that sin, in ourselves and in others, demands a response. How are we to live with all this sin? I think Sara Miles has it right in pointing to Jesus. Mercy. That's how we move through the world. That's how we must deal with each other, and with ourselves. Mercy.

More and more, that's what my theology boils down to.

Sin and mercy.

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7 thoughts on “Sin and Mercy”

  1. I like the implicit thread here of reclaiming words that have been abused, instead of abandoning them. Jesus' warfare imagery is designed to subvert warfare. Jesus' lived discourse around sin is designed to point, unequivocally, to mercy. I'm not remotely a fan of "name it claim it." But I suppose I am a huge fan of "name it, reclaim it."

  2. I noticed the same juxtaposition. I'm blogging so far out (I'm now writing posts scheduled for October) that I'm unaware of some of these happy coincidences.

  3. Reminds me of why the simple Jesus prayer can be so powerful. "Lord Jesus Christ have mercy upon me a sinner."

  4. Did you see this?

  5. Have any thoughts on what that looks like to live out mercy for the sins of none believers for those of us that work in the secular world?

  6. Your conclusion is a diamond. But the problem is that those who are considered as "the world" do not see this mercy, especially within more conservative cells. What they hear from the church is, "Do as we say, not as we do", especially in regards to sex. That is why many outsiders "seem" to relish a church leader falling from sexual sin. But it is not the sin, Per Se that they point to, as it is the judgmental hypocrisy that ruled the leader's life and teaching.

    Numberless conservative Christians who have their own secret sexual activity, though they my not word it in just this way, feel that what they do does not impact or harm the church or society. Yet, feel very, very strong and adamant that if the church became lenient toward everyone who practices the same that would cause the moral fabric of society to come apart at the seams. That is why if in certain circles someone suggested teaching our young people that masturbation is natural and nothing to feel ashamed of, many who would be the strongest opposition would be adults who masturbated the night before fantasizing of a co-worker, an old flame, or someone who sits in the pew in front of them.

    I do not say this in order to be shocking, but to make the point that those not of the church see through us well and are not impressed when we suddenly adopt the saying "Forgiven, not perfect" when our secret is found out, or when we start comparing ourselves to David. We have no angel wings to wrap ourselves in. The truth is I have never met a non-Christian who demanded that Christians be perfect, to be more than human. What they do ask of us is to be honest about our humanity, about our weaknesses, to cease the "Righteous Strut", and to grow into an understanding, a mercy and a tenderness that is born only from that kind of honesty.

  7. Well said and to the point. We truly need to stop trying to force non-believers into our mold of Christianity. They aren't going to submit and it wasn't how Jesus taught us to spead the "Good News." Mercy. I just love it. Mercy.....

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