Sin and Punishment and Judgment

I’ve been reading Anne Lamott’s Traveling Mercies. There’s a quote I came across today I really like:

They say we are not punished for the sin but by the sin.

I don’t know who “they” are because I’ve never heard this before I came across it in this wonderful little book.

But this is so true, and no one seems to understand it.

People who are caught up in it don’t understand it – when the Bible talks about sin (and I’m not talking about the short list that church people wave in your face on Sunday morning) it’s about things that hurt the people that commit them sometimes more than they hurt anyone else. Sin is not sin because Someone Up There made up an arbitrary list of Things He Doesn’t Want Us to Do. Sin is sin because it causes pain and hurt to everyone involved.

The irony is that in our Christian culture we don’t even understand this. We seem to think that sin is wrong just because, and we make our list of things that are included, and when we see other people doing them, we think we’re missing out on something. We jump on people for what we view as sin, not because it’s bad, but because they’re doing it and we can’t. We pace back and forth telling everybody stop what they’re doing, because we’re worried we’re missing out. That someone else is getting away with something.

But honestly, if it’s truly sin, it’s hurting them more than it’s hurting you. And if it’s not hurting them in the long run, it may not be sin – maybe it’s just one more thing that we’ve added to our list so that we can act like we’re better than someone else.

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