I had already been to a Church service that day and I bowed my head to pray for the second time “Lord, we have erred and strayed from thy ways like lost sheep. We have followed too much the devices and desires of our own hearts. We have offended against thy holy laws. And there is no health in us. But thou, O Lord, have mercy upon us miserable offenders.” I scoured thoroughly over my actions to try to find some sin. In these moments of reflection, I am usually very successful in finding something to feel guilty about. But the sins I had confessed to in the morning were already wiped away and in the two hours between services all I had done was eat lunch with friends. The words of the service liturgy sounded dishonest as I spoke them aloud. I had not offended against any holy laws, I was not sorry or ashamed. If God had already removed my sin that morning, how could God remove it again that afternoon? I then realised that I was going about defining sin in a way that didn’t help me understand our relationship with God or the effects of sin on it.
My idea of sin was that it was a tally up of every wrong we had committed until it was removed by God’s answer to our prayer of confession. Sin seemed to be a matter of adding and subtracting in a ledger book. The Gospel was explained to me as simply that humanity was separated from God by our sin, and that Jesus took away our sins when we confessed. But this seemed to have the implication that as soon as we sinned, we were blocked from God and left desolate from his help or voice. Sin seemed to be contingent on human time, that we were only redeemed within the set widow of time since we had last confessed. But then in these moments of confession when I had nothing to confess, what was I meant to pray? A small voice within in me cried out “Lord, I am sorry for the sins of the world.” Maybe sin is more unknown than we would believe.
God declares “I will remove the sin of this land in a single day.” (Zechariah 3:9) The idea of sins affecting a whole land has been somewhat lost on us. Throughout the Old Testament God punishes the land of Israel as a whole for its collective sins. Sin mires all of humanity because we are all complicit. “I am sorry for the sins I am not aware I have committed.” We can be wicked-doers consciously or unconsciously. Sin can be through what we have done and what we have left undone. If we are not profiting from or contributing to sin, then we are constantly bystanders to the evils of this world be it climate change, human trafficking or elderly loneliness. Sin is more than individual right or wrong actions but a separation from God that affects the entire human race. We are all severed from God without Jesus. But if sin is more complex than we thought, than that must mean grace is ever wider. Jesus came down to our ruined world and “takes off [our] filthy clothes” (Zechariah 3:4) for once and for all. As I look at my saviour hanging on that tree I get down on my knees and look upon his face to pray “I am sorry for everything I can bring to mind and for everything I can’t. I am sorry for the sins of the world. Consciously, unconsciously, done or undone.”
By Angela Eichhorst ’22. Angela is a freshman living in Canaday.