On Not Being A Great Sinner

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The various churches of today have a number of members who seem to me to be rather too morbid about their sins. I do not think exaggerated emphasis on personal sinfulness helps in leading the Christian life. It seems morbid.

Everyone is a sinner. There is little reason to deny it and no reason to exaggerate it. We are all pained by flaws and imperfections of character. So what? God knows it and we know it. Still I donít see myself as a really great sinner. I think of myself as being as good a sinner as anybody else but not better. The primary appeal of Christ for me is not as a savior from sins, which He is, but His role as a Giver and Affirmer of Life.

As for notorious sinners most seem not to have intended to be so. Almost no one starts with the intentions of being evil. The sins they commit seem the results of carrying a good intention too far or carrying normal impulses to excess. Sins usually seem a good idea at the time.

Sins usually come from people rationalizing good intentions with bad action. To be a really great sinner, one must intend to be evil, and few people (at least in my experience) ever seem to start out to be evil. Many just donít think ahead. Or they just donít think. Or they are are deficient in imagination or awareness of the ironic possibilities of in life.

We should not hate sinners because few start out to be sinners. Many simply could not limit their own selfish impulses. Some could not sublimate or wisely use positive urges like selfishness which was placed in nature as a method to ensure survival and propagation. Many sinners went further and further in natural things and ways until nature was out of hand rather than helpful. People easily get lost on the road of good intentions, idealistic principles, or the natural impulses of nature.

I advise that people view their sinship honestly and without exaggeration or self-dramatization. As for for being a king of sin, I donít think Iím even royal. As sins go, I donít see myself as a top army of sin commissioned officer but one of natureís enlisted men.

It is true that had I known more, I might have been a better sinner, but in that case my limited circumstances were grace. I find most sins, like bad turns on the roads in a dark forest were not intended or even thought out. They were the short cuts of the imagination because we lack patience to get where we want to go in a slower and right way. God knows what is best. But people do not want the best way; they want the instant way. Technology tends to make us spiritually immature.

Modern technology has an emphasis on speed that panders to our desire to do everything instantly and easily. Technology has played into the human weakness for the instantaneous. I advise honestly that the spiritual quality of life that mankind needs in order to elevate, raise, redeem and better human existence is not to be quickly achieved.

Spiritual maturity is not an instant pudding. It takes persistence, thought, patience, prayer, grace and experience in applying grace to life. The spiritual life requires an education in timely grace that comes from prayer, sacred studies, and helping others in concrete ways. It is not simply going to a church meeting and saying there you gobbled God.

Sin is not so much an action as an attitude. One bad attitude causes many sinful actions. So if you desire to get to the root of a sin, you must get to the attitudes behind it. Do not try for perfect attitudes but better attitudes. And it is a non-understanding attitude when we think the spiritual quality of God can be brought to earth quickly. Heavens, no. We are still doing what Jesus only started: bringing in the Kingdom of God that Jesus preached the availability of and which availability is still here, growing and needed.


Dr. James MacLeod may be contacted through the Neill Macaulay Foundation.