Religion & Faith * Kate Nguyen

Kate likes beauty- seeing it and creating it.
Sometimes Kate enjoys taking a step back and away to listen to the world that she’s in, often to find everyone is saying the same thing in so many different voices.
Kate thinks dragons are cool.

“I often wonder if the idea of sin only bothers us due to its negative connotation and notion of guilt. Would sin hurt if we did not acknowledge it?”

If you’re like me, you have made mistakes. And you too have suffered from the mistakes that were made by others in your life. Some hurt more than others, some lingered longer than others, some just simply don’t go away. Not until a little while ago, some of these mistakes became clear to me to be inherently sin. While contemplating that thought, I ran into a few contradictions regarding what sin is and how it applies to every being.

The first hypothesis I came to was that knowing God is not a prerequisite to be punished for sin. In fact, oftentimes the consequences of sin are self-punishment.
My younger self would often conceptualize “sin” as disobedience. Disobedience that will eventually hurt because of the punishment that follows it. I now would like to think of the concept of sin as a means of protection and not so much as a device to reinforce an authoritarian sovereignty. Although they don’t have to be mutually exclusive to contribute to the conception of sin.
Correspondingly, is sinning an act of disobedience or is it ignorant self harm?

Although I’m reluctant on the idea of hell being the enforcer of the alternative, hell is extreme, and human temptation is great; so great that even Christ himself had to be trialed with.
But the ultimate and most hurtful price of sin is not Hell but the distance from God, which requires one to have a relationship with God in the first place. Does this mean sin won’t hurt if you don’t know God and have nothing to lose?

I don’t suppose so.

This leads me to believe that sin, whether we name it or not, will inevitably hurt. It’s primitive, it’s essential, it’s the universal human condition. Spiritual acknowledgment deepens the understanding of sin rather than being the conditional clause for it to exist. In other words, guilt comes before spirituality. Sin is our unavoidable fall while spirituality is subjected to conditional growth. Everyone will suffer from sin, but not everyone will come to know their sin and thus the divine grace that forgives.

Secondly, one does not have to know sin to suffer from it. Sin, whether we name it or not, is unavoidably damaging. I often wonder if the idea of sin only bothers us due to its negative connotation and notion of guilt. Would sin hurt if we did not acknowledge it?
If idolatry wasn’t a sin, would we feel bad about it?
If envy wasn’t a sin, would we feel bad about it?
If murder wasn’t a sin, would we feel bad about it?
If loving someone was a sin, does that love remain innocent?
If someone committed a sin without knowing about its inherently harmful nature, would it take a toll on their heart?

The order of confession and guilt can go either direction. But the acknowledgement of sin, especially if intrinsic, seems to usually resolve the pain; like a diagnosis that pinpoints the root of the anxiety and takes away the fear of the unknown.

I would like to give the example of the book The Scarlet Letter. Two sinners, Hester and Arthur, committed the same sin but only Hester was tried and persecuted. While Arthur was protected under his upright image, he tortured himself every night in isolation. Hester, after her trial, suffered the shame and pain but also gradually and purposefully was accepted by herself and others. Arthur, on the other hand, was crushed under the weight of fear and regret.
The image of man wrestling with his unconfessed and unnamed guilt has been a theme in philosophy and literature for a long time; Crime and Punishment is another excellent example.

On the other hand, if we wrongfully decide that something was sinful and condemn others for it, we put the Scarlet Letter on where it shouldn’t be. We would stain innocent hearts with cognitive dissonance, hate and shame that they don’t deserve. For instance, say homosexuality was never a sin, it has been deemed as evil for so long that some damages are irreversible. In this case, the only and greatest sin committed was hate, by the very people who profess the love of God.

With that being said, what do we do with this thought?

First of all, I suggest we have mercy with ourselves.
It’s inescapable that we are all touched by sin. But by contemplating this matter, we all can be more thoughtful, compassionate, and graceful as to define and denounce our own sin.
Like Hozier worded in his song “Take Me To Church”:
“There is no sweeter innocence than our gentle sin
In the madness and soil of that sad earthly scene.
Only then I am human, only then I am me.”
Sin is hurtful and devastating but it is our nature, which we still have to live with and grow amidst. To grow, one needs love: “Love is patient, love is kind.” (1 Corinthians 13:4) I encourage you to comfort and accept yourself with grace and patience.

“Remember that God lives through us, the way He does so through others might not be the way He does you. And it’s okay to not understand all of his ways.”

Secondly, have mercy upon others who induced your pain.
“…And forgive us our sins,
for we ourselves forgive everyone indebted to us.” (Luke 11:4)
It is difficult to forgive and to love those who hurt us. And I believe you don’t have to subdue your heart to forgive immediately without regard to the devastating damage. That unconditional love is Christ and only Christ. However, I hope it takes off the weight of resentment to keep in mind that the pain of sin is chained to even the most godless being. There will always be a price we all have to pay.

Lastly, be careful who you judge and where you put the “sin” label.
The condemnation of others’ sin to me is one of the least Christ-like things to do.
“…for one without sin cast the first stone”. (John 8:7)
Besides the Ten Commandments, there are so much more of God’s words that can indicate what honors Him and what does not. Before coming to conclusion and protest, please remember that God is sophisticated and so is the way that He works. Remember that God lives through us, the way He does so through others might not be the way He does you. And it’s okay to not understand all of his ways. Don’t ask: “Do you think xyz is a sin?” with a hollow heart. There is one judge and none of us will ever equal Him, so the best we can do to reach Him is to listen carefully and compassionately.

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