The topic of sin isn't a popular one among those of us who live on the left side of the religious center. Sin has been so defined in narrow and excluding fashion that many of us prefer other understandings of reality. John Locke's vision of humanity as "tabula rasa" (blank slate) was an expression of his own view that we aren't defined by traits that are passed on from generation to generation (original sin). Instead, we have the ability and the opportunity to choose to do what is right. I believe that there is truth in Locke's views. In part they help facilitate democracy. We can trust the public to do what is right. That said, perhaps we would be well served to have a counter weight -- a doctrine of sin.
Paul wrote: "All have sinned and fall short of God’s glory" (Rom. 3:23 CEB). I'm drawing out just this verse for a purpose, for it is a reminder that we are all in the same boat. Each of us is tainted, to some degree or another but sin.
Why do I raise this point? I think it is important that we keep things in perspective as we consider the events of the past week. The two young men whose acts of violence left four dead, are really not that different from us. I don't have explanation for why they turned to violence. I have a feeling that someone got a hold of the older brother, who was feeling alone and rejected, and offered a sense of purpose. He then recruited his much more integrated brother into the mix. We don't know at this point whether the trigger was religious (radicalized Islam) or nationalism (Chechen). But Christians fall into this, as do people of every faith and creed (or lack there of). What we all have in common is that propensity to act against the common good and most importantly against the wisdom of God. I expect we'll learn much more in the coming weeks now that the younger brother has been arrested.
But I want add into the equation the other major news story -- at least in the United States -- and that is the explosion in Texas. This wasn't an act of terrorism, and yet there is undoubtedly human involvement. Maybe it was negligence. Maybe it was just a bit of hubris. I read somewhere that there was much more fertilizer on the premises than should normally be there. I've read that due to government cut-backs there are fewer inspectors, and thus this plant like many across the land haven't been inspected as they should.
This coming week we observe Earth Day, an event the reminds us that humans have harmed the environment and thus harming the habitat in which we as humans live.
We are all sinners --caught up in actions that can harm our neighbors. Thus, as Paul reminds us -- we need to live in God's grace, not so we can cover ourselves in complacency, but so that we can engage in loving God and loving neighbor, which is our human obligation. Sin is present, but sin needn't define us.