It may seem unnecessary to raise the concept of sin if the real topic is one of love. The reason is rather simple, if a little surprising: we cannot love with all our heart if we do not acknowledge that we, and those we love, are capable of sin. The most important and difficult aspect of love is forgiveness, or as we Christians like to say it, grace.
That's why Jesus came to forgive sins. It's both a refreshing and a challenging concept. It's refreshing to know that our sins are forgiven. Even as we commit them, and continue to commit them. But it's also challenging - do we continue in our sinful ways because our sins are forgiven? Can we rise above sin and live a sinless life? Live a perfect life, as Jesus asks of us (Matthew 5:4?
The surprising answer is yes. The perfect life is not one that is without sin but one that is lived in love. If we pursue love earnestly, in the sense that God meant us to, to love one another, to do unto others as we would them do unto us, if we live our lives in love, then yes, we will be perfect, the way God meant us to be.
It's not as easy as it sounds. And we will be challenged along the way. Often, by the very people that we love and trust. How we respond to these challenges is key to whether we move forward or fall behind. Not just the Bible but every religion, every counselor, every mentor and advisor in your life will guide you in this way. This is when the rules and guidelines we make up are helpful. It is good to read them, listen to them, and commit them to our hearts. But they are not the measure of our lives. They are simply signposts to help us get back on track. The track is paved with love. We must not forget that.
The confusion amongst some Christian teachings around the importance of moral rules, the forgiveness of sins, the significance of love, and the purpose of our lives stems from this misunderstanding - the rules are there to help us develop the capacity to love, they are not there to determine good or bad behavior, nor serve as a pathway to heaven. By the same token, those who have rejected God because of the burden of sin have misunderstood the role of sin. We need to recognise and acknowledge the sin in us not so that we can stop our tendency to sin and start being perfect in that sense but to raise in us the capacity to forgive, the forge a greater love, a love that embraces the person, not just the good in the person.
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