In the Lectionary

Sunday, October 13, 2013: 2 Kings 5:1-3, 7-15c

Back in the mid-1990s I wrote a book on sin. Each of us knows sin experientially, of course, but few of us know it comprehensively even in that way because we are parochial even in our sinning. So I had to study sin. For a couple of years I read about sin in the Bible. I read commentaries on the Bible, theological encyclopedia articles and books on virtue and vice. I finally got so stuffed with sin that I had to write it out just to get relief.

I learned that it’s almost impossible to tell exactly how blameworthy others are for their sins, but that I dishonor them as moral adults if I assume they are not responsible at all. I learned that the worst hypocrisy is unconscious of itself. Beginning hypocrites and recovering hypocrites know they are false, but a deep-dish hypocrite thinks he is sound. I learned that we haven’t seen the heart of darkness until we’ve seen religious sin.

But the most important truth I learned is that sin is inexplicable. In the mystery of iniquity we human beings often know what is wrong and then do it. Further, we know that wrongdoing grieves God, harms others and abuses ourselves, yet we still do it. Why? Why would we live against people who love us? Why would we be willing to grieve our Creator and Savior? Why, like an alcoholic, would we recognize our poison and still drink it?