It’s been a couple of years since we’ve been to church, “dropping out” as it were due to the stresses of dealing with a child and then children. As a result, my mind hasn’t been wandering into spiritual matters very often, until a few weeks ago as I was trying to go to sleep, and reflecting on sin and it’s nature. Far too often we learn that such and such is sinful, and that everything is black and white, but in my wiser age I have realized that it’s all gray.
In particular, I came upon the thesis that actions in and of themselves are not sinful; only the motives behind them can be. Is murder sinful? Absolutely, since I can’t imagine a murder made in love, unless you’re talking about assisted suicide, which can be performed completely out of love. Is abortion sinful? In most cases, but perhaps not all.
Drugs, alcohol, and smoking? As long as they don’t hinder your relationships with your family, loved ones, and Christ, then why not? These things may not be good for you but neither is eating ice cream, and when was the last time you heard a preacher rally against frozen confections?
Are homosexual acts sinful? Under the current assumption, I have to conclude that they are no more sinful than heterosexual acts when performed out of love. The same can be said for sex outside of marriage; once a taboo of the church, sex outside of marriage between two loving people may be no different than sex inside of marriage.
One point I should add is that the love must be for all people, not just a few. If a married man has sex with another woman, that sex act may very well be performed out of love for the other woman, but he is hating his wife in the process.
The allure of pointing at particular things and labeling them as sinful is that it makes identifying sin easy. “That person is gay, so he is sinning” is an easy label. It also makes it easy to judge, which we are told in the Bible several times not to do. By letting go of the attachment of particular actions as being sinful, we are also freeing ourselves from the sin of judgment.
Another advantage is that is it makes instruction easy. It is much easier to teach “Don’t smoke” than it is to teach “Don’t perform actions not out of love.” After all, what is love? That’s a question that takes longer than a lifetime to answer in its entirety.
Actually, “don’t perform actions not out of love” may be a little too strict. There are certainly many actions that don’t involve love at all. Choosing what clothes you want to wear in the morning, for instance. There may also be times where it may be impossible for an action to be loving toward all involved parties. A man who steals bread to feed his children is doing it out of love for his children but is disrespecting the storekeeper. Does that make it moral? That’s a tough one that I’ll leave up to the armchair philosophers, although my gut feeling is that there is an order of who we are supposed to love, which would be something like:
- Love God.
- Love your family.
- Love your friends.
- Love all other people.
I know there are Bible verses that contradict some of this, although I’m pretty sure love of God comes first.
Clearly I’ve opened up a can of worms that can’t be summarized in a single blog post. I’ll continue this line of thought in a future post.