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Mind your language!

I've been struggling with sin lately … there, bet you think I'm going to write about swearing or blasphemy!  But it's “sin” the word with which I wrestle, along with other jargon that doesn't help me communicate with those who don't speak church lingo.

Worse, many think they understand but have the wrong dictionary, an unwritten one handed down through hearsay and tradition. So “sin” as in “living in sin” - equating sin with sex and remembering an age gone by, and in which Christians are still thought to live. Or “sinful” as in “naughty but nice” - used in an ad for cream cakes: you know you shouldn't really but why not.

I've been experimenting with “mess” instead. How's this?

Bad news: the human condition is messed up.  (Nobody needs telling that, it's transparently obvious.)  What chance do we have of anything better?  If ‘heaven’ (the eternal realm) is not to be messed up by us, we can't go as we are.  A messed up heaven is not heaven!  So as we are, we have no hope of anything better, because if there was, and we joined, it wouldn't be better any more.

Good news (“gospel”!): God came from the eternal realm to visit us, in the person of the Son, Jesus.  He's showed us that something better, unmessy, exists and is possible.  Jesus told us how to live, showed us how to live, in some mysterious way through his crucifixion makes it possible for us to live less messily, and promises the Holy Spirit's help to anyone who wants to live like that.  All we have to say is “yes” (we can't hang on to all the messed-up-ness and ask God to help us get rid of it at the same time!).

Jesus told us that he loves us, that the Father loves us, and that the Spirit will come to love us and enable us to love others.  Jesus showed us, too, that love transforms messy individuals and mess in the world - God's world, which he wants to clean up for our sake as much as his own.  We can have a first instalment of unmessy life now, here on Earth. This is ham where you am, not pie in the sky when you die!

What brought this on? Thinking that Christian believers have to get better and better at articulating aspects of their faith such as the uniqueness of Jesus, the purpose of life and the problems of evil and suffering.  Thinking that this must be done so that people in the street can understand - their questions, their language, not ours - while remaining orthodox in our beliefs.  Thinking that we have to live the gospel, not just talk it, and that that means working to reduce mess wherever we are.  And because last Saturday was the Jewish ‘Sabbath of repentance’ and next is Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement.

Yours in Christ

Peter Nicholls

PS Got any Jewish friends at work? In the community? Why not open up a conversation about sin and repentance and what it means to them?

... Christian believers have to get better and better at articulating aspects of their faith such as the uniqueness of Jesus, the purpose of life and the problems of evil and suffering. ... so that people in the street can understand 

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