Monday, May 16, 2005

On Sin and Shortcomings

“The minister’s shortcomings simply cannot be concealed. Even the most trivial soon get known…However trifling their offenses, these little things seem great to others, since everyone measures sin, not by the size of the offense, but by the standing of the sinner.” – John Chrysostom

As long as I have been a pastor, I have felt the subtle tension between portraying myself as all too human, while at the same time, recognizing the inevitable perceptions that some church people want a pastor who doesn't smoke, drink, swear, chew, or date girls who do. Part of the tension is precipitated by the pietist tradition that rightly suggests that there is a relationship between right thinking and right living.

On the other hand, as hard as I look at the life and ministry of Jesus, I don't find Jesus spending much time addressing the sins that most churches spend most of their time worrying about. Jesus list of sins (if one could even suggest that such a list can be made) almost always have a corporate character. Treat the poor justly. Take care of the widow. Don't cheat in your business dealings.

Since when has our focus on sin (or "shortcomings" if you are part of a tradition that finds talking about sin uncomfortable) been about whether or not one lives up to the list of personal vices that may or may not have anything to do with the kind of sin about which Jesus was concerned? Perhaps all I can do is hope along with St. Chrysostrom for the day when my sin is no longer measured by the size of my offense, but rather by my standing as a sinner along with everyone else. In the meantime, I will do my best to avoid "dating" girls who chew.

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