Monday, April 30, 2012

Is this a sin? Is that?

All too often it seems that we Christians as a whole seem to be confused as to what is a sin and what isn't. Is it ok to do this? Or ok to do that? So I wanted to address something that the CCC tells us about how to determine for ourselves if something is, or is not a sin.

In order for an action to be morally good, we have to look at three components:
The Objective Act - (What we do)
The subjective goal (why we do it, intention)
Concrete situations or circumstances (when, where, how, with whom, etc). 

The Objective Act

Somethings are just sinful. We can usually use the 10 commandments to determine those, the beatitudes, or simply the statement from Jesus that we should love God with all our heart, soul and mind, and our neighbor as ourselves. Stealing for instance is a sin. Lying. Murder. When we look at an act, we can find out if it's a sin at this stage by simply looking at what we are doing.

Now there are some acts that are not inherently sinful. Like painting, drawing, waving at someone, throwing a baseball, etc. These may or may not be sinful, because they can be a good thing or a bad thing (as most things in the world can be.) A gun being shot could be good or bad, based on other factors. A car being driven could be good or bad.

So the next thing we should look at is why are we doing what we are doing.

The Subjective Goal

Your motives, your intention, your heart; these are all important to determine if what you are doing is a sin. If your intention is to cause harm, hurt someones feelings, throw your hand up at God and say there! I did it! What are you gonna do about it? All of these indicate a bad place in your heart. If you do them out of love, then you know that the subjective goal is good. That doesn't mean what you did isn't a sin. If you murder someone, even for a good reason, it's still murder! It's still a sin. But as above, some actions aren't sinful of their own selves. You can still paint for a good cause, or a bad one. A mural you've been paid to do, is much different than graffiti (even if the graffiti is for something you deem to be a good cause, it's still not showing love for the people who own the object, or the people who have to see it.)

This brings us to the third concept that must be addressed. You can do things that aren't inherently sinful, for the right reasons, but they still could be a bad thing. Why?

The concrete situation/circumstances

Where are you? Who are you with? Who is around? All of these are important things to consider. How on earth could something be a sin if it's for a good reason, and the thing you are doing is not inherently sinful? Well some things shouldn't be done in front of children for instance. Certain conversations or actions which are not sinful of themselves, and can be done out of love for other people, still shouldn't be done in front of others. Having a glass of wine by yourself, or with your wife at the end of a long week in the right context, is not a bad thing. Having a glass of wine, for the very same reasons, in front of someone struggling with alcoholism, could be a very bad thing indeed. 

In essence, those three things will help you find what is a sin and what isn't. What are you doing? Why are you doing it? Who, what, where? Above all, remember that as Christians we do not see morality as something that each person decides for themselves. We have the living Word of God to help guide us, through Scripture and Tradition. These work together to help us understand what God wants us to know about sin, and it frees us in a way that others cannot claim! We know the boundaries, and should feel free to run around having a good time, being fun, enjoying life; but avoiding the boundaries that we know harm our bodies and souls. It often seems like it's those who have 'no boundaries' who are running around free, while those who know where the danger lies huddle in fear as far from it as they can. It should be the other way around. If you don't know where the snake is, or the pit you can fall in, running around in the dark should be the last thing you'd want to do! Those who know where the snake is, and where the pit is, who have a light that guides them.. should stride with confidence through life, free of fear, and free to make the right choices! 

Yes, the Yoke is easy, and the burden IS light!