What is sin?

The language of the existentialist theologians is helpful when they speak of an inauthentic self in contrast with an authentic self - James D. Smart, Doorway to a New Age
Sin is other people's faults and misery; other people's insecurities, fears, and failures; other people's baggage dumped on you. To put it more crudely, sin is other people's mess-up.

Philip Larkin put it somewhat more directly. Even parents with the best will in the world cannot fail to foist their faults upon their offspring. From the moment a child is born, that silent sponge is in close contact (or not) with its parents absorbing every word, inflection, and nuance.

The little one will become the whipping boy for every bad day at work, every disagreement between Mum and Dad, every lost argument. Even a parent's regret at the treatment is registered by the infant as it tries to reconcile the double bluff, the one-moment-harsh-the-next-moment-loving situation. These are all matters a child will have to deal with when he or she gets older. Everything that is right and good and proper, everything that you could have been or wish you were is gradually overwritten by something fearful, angry and ashamed. It is the struggle between their authentic and inauthentic selves moulding you in their inauthentic image.

If parents are feeling guilty about this, then that is no bad thing. We do need constantly to examine our parenting skills. If we are feeling irritated, annoyed, maybe downright angry at seemingly being given the blame, then we have to find a way to deal with that - we cannot be unaware of the dynamic impact a parent has on a child's life.

One thing to remember is that every person will, at some point in life, need to repent - will need to find their authentic self, the real you buried beneath the mountain of grief. Larkin's "coastal shelf" deepening as the years go by, is mirrored by the term "mountain" used by Jesus. Parents cannot defend their child against the stealthy invasion of the inauthentic self. They simply have to do the best job that they know how.

Other people's fears and frustrations become our own. On top of that, we develop our own unique brand of fear and frustration as a reaction to those of others. Such is the nature of "sin".

What determines our behaviour is not what happens to us but how we interpret what happens to us - Dorothy Rowe, Why We Lie
Ephesians 4:22-24
So, what is the solution to this problem? Well, surely the answer lies in Paul's exhortation to "strip off the old personality," the inauthentic you. To unpick the stitches one by one, if necessary. In a similar way, Jesus talked about being "born again." Rewinding our lives back to the start. Going off-script. Deleting all those looped audio tracks that we live by - redirecting the routes our thought patterns take. Forcing ourselves to question why we think in a certain way, facing up to the origins of such thinking, and challenging the truthfulness of our existence. This what Paul meant by being "renewed in the spirit of your minds." In other words, we put the old personality to death. We kill it. That is how we die a death like Jesus, making way for the new personality - the authentic you - to rise like a resurrection. A new birth.

This all achieved by means of repentance. Going back to key events in our lives and reinterpreting those events by looking at them with clearer eyes. When we do this, we begin to feel the impact of the good news, "Your sins have been forgiven."
Forgiveness is not something we do but, like happiness, is something which arises spontaneously from what we do. It is not a virtue but a blessing. We cannot make ourselves forgive any more than we can make ourselves happy. We can do the things for which forgiveness is a by-product. We can seek to enlarge our understanding of why these hurtful events occurred. It is much easier to discover forgiveness for yourself if you actually seek to understand yourself. By concentrating on the understanding and the actions we can one day discover that we have lost a burden, and that state of lightness is forgiveness - Dorothy Rowe, The Successful Self
God understands. He always has done. So, for him, he has never held our sins against us. But, until we understand, we can never forgive ourselves! It is by forgiving ourselves that we have our sins "blotted out." We wipe the slate clean. Other people wrote on that slate, and it is time for us to write on it ourselves as children of God.

Jesus was telling nothing new when he made the proclamation, "Your sins have been forgiven!" It was already there in the scriptures, and he could not keep quiet about it. He saw it in the broken condition described in the opening chapters of Genesis, and that man's only answer - his spiritual need - was to reconnect with God. He saw that certain ones had already discerned this - the psalmist who wrote, "As far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us," or Isaiah being touched on the mouth and being told, "See...your guilt is taken away and your sin atoned for."

But, Jesus also understood that this was not a concept that many would be able to grasp. Not for nothing did he intimate that the road was narrow, and that few were the ones finding it. There must be a certain acceptance of being alone in this realisation. But that didn't mean that he wouldn't try, even if it meant telling people what they didn't want to hear, whatever the consequences of that action might be. It was worth it if it meant pointing people back to a renewed relationship with God and getting them to reveal the real you, the authentic you.