|Sin includes many categories
and variations, but there are
two that are particularly evident: justified sin and
rationalized sin. Justified sin has a good reason behind
it. Rationalized sin has a phony reason behind it and
is usually due to unbalanced selfishness.
Justified sin is like that of Jean Valjean in Hugo’s novel, “Les Miserables.” Jean broke a bakery window and reached in to get bread for his family. Now this was a sin but it was a justified sin. It is not fair to ask a person not to steal as he and his family starve. (This principle can be transferred to use in many situations.)
Rationalized sin is clearly sin with a poor excuse, but an excuse. That is the path of most sins and most sinners. The motive behind most rationalized sins are wants. Wants are rationalized as needs. But justified sins often come from very real needs.
We are all familiar from economics about wants and needs. Man is an unlimited want machine. That is part of original sin. The difference between justified sins and rationalized sins is distinguishable by want and need. Wants are unnecessary things desired for different vanity reasons. But needs are serious to life. To help with wants is a kindly choice but to help with needs is an imperative.
An imperative of Christians and the churches is to help those with justified needs. That help may keep them from sin. If they sin, let it not be said among Christians that it was caused by a real need that was not met as Christians stood by.
As you look out over the neediness of mankind, it is so vast that it is evident one person or even one group cannot meet it. But because you cannot do everything does not mean you do nothing. Find something's, however small, that you are capable of doing. Let us not be callous to the real needs of people, but do as much as we can individually or in churches groups or nations. Recall how Jesus said in Matthew 25:40 that when you did unto the least, you did unto Him. So what we do or not do we are doing it to the Lord.
The man who does not believe is like a bird that does not fly. The bird that flies is made beautiful in flying. In believing we are made beautiful in holiness through Christ. We fulfill our selves through transcendent believing.
The beauty of holiness is in helping others. We help others because we believe in Christ. Left to nature people would starve, but nature must be trumped by grace. Science argues for only the survival of the fittest. But we as Christians call for the survival of all possible through the triumph of grace over nature.
Christians serve and help others. That is what Christ said to do. There is a beauty of holiness in serving and helping others. This belief in God fulfills us for a transcendent and harmonious flight of faith in which we consider others and the harmony of all.
It is our Christian duty to help those with needs unmet that they may not be forced into desperate but justified sins where motive is understandable but where methods may be wrong. If we leave circumstances alone that may cause others to sin then we are as bad as those creating the circumstances. Which is worse? The man who makes a pit for others to fall into. Or the one passing by who leaves a pit for others to fall into.
Children when asked to clean up say, “I didn’t do it I shouldn't have to clean it up.” This is childish. Their argument has no grace in it. They are too immature to understand grace.
There is a considerable amount of sin in the world caused by circumstances. If we change some circumstances, we might be spared some justified sins that, though understandable, are still real sins. If we make the effort to change circumstances and fail, what of it? Is that not what Luther rediscovered: the just shall live by faith. (Romans 5:1) The Book Of James reminds us that faith without works is dead. (James 2:17)
If things cannot be changed, leave it to Heaven, but shake the dust off your feet (Matthew 10:14) as a sign of the frustration of grace by the perverse. God is gracious, but there is a judgment. And God is no fool but a silent master of irony who moves in indirect and very subtle ways to checkmate sinners.
Dr. James MacLeod may be contacted through the Neill Macaulay Foundation.