A ‘Holy Sinner’
Yes – it’s a confusing description, isn’t it?
Church and religion are full of confusing – and often conflicting – messages.
‘Be holy, for I, the Lord your God, am holy’
‘For we have all sinned…’
In almost consecutive days in my Lent course I have been challenged to ‘be holy’ – and then reminded that ‘I am broken’ – a sinner.
‘Oh well make your mind up!’ was my first thought. And yet that’s the challenge of being human, surely? That we are all capable of performing acts of immense kindness, generosity – and even sacrifice. And that humanity is also able to inflict war, aggression, persecution and prejudice on its fellow human being.
And we all have choices to make.
And the church seems to reflect these extreme positions too. You can quickly move from ‘hell, fire and brimstone’ preaching – designed to strike fear in your heart and a pretty quick ‘on your knees’ position of repentance to escape eternal damnation – through to a fluffy ‘Easter bunny’ redemption and ‘prosperity for all’ package – with a brief perfunctory ‘oh yes, don’t forget you’re a sinner – but tick this box, say sorry and all will be fine’ along the way. You can probably find both extremes – and several versions in the middle – in any town or city’s churches – they are even sometimes helpfully situated next door to each other!
Groundhog Day Confession
If you attend a church with a ‘corporate spoken confession for sins’ then you can all stand together and be ‘forgiven’ – which is fine in principle – but in reality can often be merely repetition and not reach inside at all. You can catch your mind wandering even here and wondering what’s for lunch – then thinking ‘oh no I’ve missed a bit’ – ‘am I forgiven?’ – ‘did I miss it?’ – ‘can I say it again?’
How do you get the balance right?
You’re told you’re a sinner – fine – repent – believe – sorted! Then – oh no – sinned again – back again – and on it goes! Has anyone ever been brave enough to say – ‘D’you know what – this is exhausting stuff!’ Where’s the transformational change that’s supposed to be taking place here?
How do you actually rise up a bit – not much – just enough to stop feeling that your religion is just trying to squash and suffocate you – or worse – subjugate you?
‘I will soar on wings like eagles’
Well actually I think most people would settle for something more than shuffling along like a geriatric tortoise – or worse – feeling like a battery hen.
What does being ‘holy’ mean?
Dictionary definition: ‘Living according to a strict or highly moral religious or spiritual system; saintly’
Can we be ‘holy’ without a faith – or even without God then? There are plenty of wonderful people in the world who do amazing things without going to church.
And let’s be honest – plenty of people who go to church and profess a faith who are not exactly nice people to know (I’m being polite here!)
And history is littered with ‘holy wars’; different religions and perspectives pitched against each other, causing death and devastation.
Being ‘holy’ sounds an impossible task – and I do hope it isn’t seen as a ‘floating six inches above the cloud’ utopia of ‘being’ – surely holiness is about action – and compassion?
“The road to holiness necessarily passes through the world of action” Robert Green Ingersoll
And in the world we live in today – surely a ‘roll your sleeves up and act’ type of holiness is what is sorely needed?
I am left pondering His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s wisdom:
“Love and compassion are necessities, not luxuries. Without them humanity cannot survive”
This post is part of my Lent 2012 series – you can find out more about it here