“Sin” is a nasty and out of fashion word. There, I wrote it. “Sin.” Completely politically incorrect. Say “sin” in a crowed movie theater and you’ll likely incite a stampede for the door. Say “sin” in an actually movie and you’ll never work in Hollywood again. We can say anything else in this culture and be yawned at. But we can’t say “sin” and mean it.
Yet avoiding the problem described by the “S” word doesn’t make it go away. At all. We know that actions bring reactions. We know and accept that we must take responsibility for our choices. The consequences of what we say and do always come back to call us to account. Shall we say the word together… “Sin.”
I can feel the resistance growing out there… Okay, let’s change the game. How ’bout if we call it… “Karma” instead? There, does that feel better?
Granted, our American version of the idea behind Karma is simple to the point of simplistic. What we generally mean when we throw the word into a sentence say, “Wow, I just got hit by a car. Must be bad Karma from when I beat up my brother in 2nd grade…” does not do justice to its deeper, nuanced Eastern philosophical meaning. Forget ever understanding it fully. If you attended a traditional western school, your mind has been permanently incapacitated from ever grasping the Hindu and Buddhist use of Karma. In our frame of reference it’s simple reciprocity. We reap what we sow; What goes around comes around; For every action there’s an equal and opposite reaction. Sorry to any students of the East, but that’s about as much as you’ll get from the average American trying to leverage the vision of Karma. Think “Earl” as in “My Name is Earl.” He’s as sophisticated as most of us get.
Back to the “S” word… Karma can be a way for us to partially understand “sin” a little better. The law of sin also holds me accountable for all my foul actions. Sin also demands a real accounting. Either way, whether I call it Karma or sin, at the bottom line, I’m doomed. If I must recoup for all my actions and make up for them, I’d be bankrupt. I can never do good fast enough. Nor can I work my way to salvation. I need an out, a loophole, a pardon. I need… [New word] “forgiveness.” Yes, I need someone to pay my debt, my sin debt, my Karmic debt.
The good news: It’s already done! I only need to accept the gift, then send a thank you note!
As thanksgiving draweth nigh, we’re posting suggestions about ways to leverage prayer to make the holiday come to life. Today, I suggest a simple prayer thanking God for forgiving us of the debt we own to his Universal Bank of Reciprocity.
Psalm 103 begins: “Praise the LORD, O my soul; all my inmost being, praise his holy name. Praise the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits…” Not forgetting the benefits that are ours by right is the first step toward true Thanksgiving. And the first benefit David, who penned this lyric, mentioned: “Who forgives all our sins…” Forgiving us of the consequences of our actions is benefit #1. It’s a huge one. God, in Jesus takes a debt that isn’t his and gives us blessings that were not ours. It’s a life swap. For that, we should be truly thankful!
God, thank you that I do not have to pay all the moral debt I have accrued. I acknowledge that you have taken my place and in that place have given to me all your freedom and joy and purity. With all the things I’ve done in my life, I should never expect true goodness in return. But you do not count my sin against me. You take the weight on yourself. Knowing that I know I can give you…. [name something you need to dump] and in return I accept your pardon. It isn’t fair; but you are good. Thank you! Thank you!”