Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Sin and Love Again

So, I need to go back to this topic. The week after my earlier post I heard two people talk about their journey to faith and how it was God confronting them with their sin that drew them to him. One of these actually made the same comparison as I did, although in a much more positive way ... she noted that our pastor had once told her that people seem to come to God in one of two ways ... being confronted with their sin, or being confronted with God's love ... she came the former way. And yes both these people do tend to go down the line of identifying specific actions as sin and look for ways to confront society with the horror of their sins. And now I 'm thinking that this is probably totally valid, but not a universal means of carrying out the Missio Dei. Its valid because that is how their stories unfolded, and doubtless countless others. My own story probably follows a line of looking for acceptance, and needing to know that the love of God was genuinely true and for me as much as for anyone else. I think that at the root of this is probably an insecurity that comes from awareness of personal sin, but is translated as a need for the love of God.
I think in general confrontation with personal sin requires a worldview that categorises actions as right or wrong. Where this is individualised or relativised, then the power of the confrontation is limited. However, along with any individualising or relativising of a worldview to fit one person there comes sooner or later a need for our worldview being legitimised. We do this by communally agreeing not to disrespect or subjugate the worldview of another if they don't disrespect or subjugate ours. However it doesn't work, we are always on the defensive for the one who will subjugate. This is because built in we have a feeling that our worldview doesn't actually hold up, because we know ourselves to be imperfect in judgement. Some have better natural judgement than others so many apparently successful judgements will also act to legitimise their worldview. But sooner or later our judgement fails, so we doubt ourselves, and the absolute legitimacy of our individualised worldview. This is where we look for outside help, outside legitimacy. And we are confronted with a God who sets the worldview in his terms, but unconditionally legitimises our existence and right to participate in that worldview according the the way he has made us. His love legitimises our participation in his worldview. What we to come to terms with is allowing him to own the worldview. We do not necessarily participate in it in the same way as all the others, but we do have to allow all the others who have accepted the terms to participate, and we must open ourselves to the possibility that yet more will participate.
How can there be terms and yet there be unconditionality. God has done something to allow us to participate with full legitimacy despite our fallible judgement and limited ability to define the worldview perfectly. God has taken on the role of defining the worldview, hence it exists and unfolds in his terms.
So some of us come to God because of his love. We need acceptance. We can't define sin as acts, but we can define our own need of something outside because we know we're not quite complete, or as capable as we'd like to make out.
So how can the "sin is abhorrent" and the "accepted at last" people be church together? More on that sometime ...


The Hippo Critic said...

Many years ago I railed against a Vineyard song that I was listening to on the way to church. "It's your kindness that leads to repentance" went a line of a chorus. "That's not Biblical!" I screamed at the cassette player. Boy did I feel stupid when I found the verse in Romans it was quoting. I think it's a key verse that works for both kinds of people you mention. It's a both and thing. Recently I've been challenged by how awful sin is to God, and I'm realising that if we truly anathemised sin as He does, then we'd have less of a problem with the awful violence of the cross.

Johnny said...

Thanks. I didn't spot that verse or its significance in the debate. (Rom 2:4 for others in my position!). I agree we need to understand the concept of anathemising sin, but how do we do so without ending up with the Greek logical dichotomy of sin and sinner, one hated, the other loved? The Hebraic "Esau I have hated" gives a clue I think, in that Esau and his descendents were influenced postively by the outworking of God's covenant promise yet did not belong. I believe it may have something to do with the difference between the Kingdom of God affecting people positively because of God's love, and people being drawn into the Kingdom (or towards the consummation of the Kingdom for those who dislike bounded sets!). So the sinner is sin, yet is loved in a way that lead God to draw that person towards a change or change process that results in being given Christ's righteous identity to be loved in a more complete way. New identity and centred set thought don't go together well, but I'm thinking that through.