Faithlink Discussion: Sin, Salavation and Gratitude
by Jacob Juncker
God, we know that we can do no good apart from you. We thank you that you save us from our sin and draw us ever closer to you. Guide us in our time together to see our own sin clearly so that we might turn to you in repentance, ready to walk in newness of life. Amen.
from Faithlink: Connecting Faith and Life,volume 16, number 30,
November 21, 2010 (Nashville: Cokesbury, 2010)
Every candidate for ministry in The United Methodist Church must submit a boat-load of paperwork. Included in that paperwork is a series of theological statements: statements of belief about God and the church. As I read this week’s Faithlink, I was reminded of these writings which I submit to you. Below is a portion of my current understanding of evil, sin and the restorative power of God’s grace.
Evil exists because of sin. We sin when we divorce (remove, blockade) ourselves from God and neighbor. This can happen in any number of ways. Evil comes into existence when we see our own God-given being as normative. Evil is given life when we acknowledge ourselves over others.
Evil exists because of individual decisions to rely upon the self and corporate influences which segregate or exclude. Our individual decisions not to be in Godlike community—loving God and neighbor as God loves Godself and Creation—produces evil in the world. Evil was not created by God, but is rather a misuse of the freedom God gave us. In the goodness of God’s creative work, God created us in God’s image endowing humanity with the ability to self-actualize and make decisions. Like God, we can say, “I am” and define what we, both individually and corporately, will be. This gracious ability allows us to both believe and disbelieve. It allows us to either follow the will of God (to be in loving relationship with both God and neighbor) or follow a different path. We can say, “I am (We are) without God;” “I am (We are) not in need of the other;” “I am (We are) self-reliant,” “I am (We are) God.” Each of these statements, spoken or lived out individually or corporately, denies our need for and dependence on the living God and the “other” (our neighbor): this is sinful and perpetuates evil.
Grace helps us overcome sin so that we might fully see and experience God in the lives of all people. Grace helps us move past ourselves in such a way that we can begin not only to see, but experience God in the “other.” We can look beyond what separates us–sin–and see the image of God in ourselves and others. Grace, then, calls us into the community of faith in order that we might begin to catch an even fuller glimpse of who God is and how God is working, through the entire body, in the world.
Grace is prevenient in that it maintains our God-given image for all, including ourselves, to see and experience. Grace becomes justifying when we realize that our God-given image is just a glimpse of who God is, thus encouraging us to discover God’s image in others. Grace is sanctifying when we begin to see and foster the image of God in others. To be entirely sanctified is to see and nurture fully (through love) the image of God in ourselves and others.
I have no doubt that my understanding of sin and grace will change. Our understanding of God is never fixed. It is always in flux as we experience varying aspects of who God is. What do you believe and how has your belief changed?