Forgive sin or un-sin it?

by Pastor Jaynan Clark Egland (President, WordAlone Network)

March 4, 2005

(Part two of a two-part series)

Wouldn’t it be nice if we could go back in time as a denomination and consider if we even want to ask or vote on the present questions on sexuality, which face us come August on a churchwide assembly floor in Orlando, Fla.? photo of Pastor Jaynan Clark EglandI believe in this “no policy change, no discipline” scenario we face a lose-lose proposition. There will be no winners in Orlando, no victory to be proclaimed, no rejoicing in either truth or social justice because no matter what happens there will be victims on all sides of this issue. Sadly, we can’t go back, we must go forward but in doing so we need to ask the right questions before any decisions can be made.

Society has its own questions it needs to ask regarding rights, civil unions, pension, insurance, estate issues, and so on. But the church also has its own personalized question it needs to ask. Though it is not popular or palatable the church needs to ask, “Is homosexual behavior a sin or not?” The sin question is ours to ask and ours to come to a position of clarity on. To avoid asking it serves no one, especially not God.

Turning to the Word of God first and then to our history as a church, our tradition, our past and present policies and then further considering society’s historic understanding and its current conversations, opposing sides may be able to come to agreement that what the church is being asked to do—in blessing same-sex relationships and ordaining practicing homosexuals—is something completely new and without precedent or support biblically, historically or traditionally. I would proffer that the new thing the church is being asked to do is to “un-sin” sin. The church is also being asked to accept an alternative to where we find our identity. Is our identity in Christ alone or in something or somewhere else like one’s sexuality?

A quick glance or an intense study of the scriptures reveals that Jesus was all about the recognition of sin and sinners and the forgiveness thereof. We are reminded that even in his healing ministry Jesus did not say, “Take up your mat and walk” but rather “Your sins are forgiven.” Jesus did not ignore sin or embrace it; he forgave it and embraced repentant, forgiven sinners of all kinds. What happens if the church that bears his name goes into the business of un-sinning sin rather than forgiving it? Is it any longer a church at that point? What happens to the confession of sin and absolution? Are some required to confess while others demand theirs be accepted and even embraced? Why not just un-sin them also? Though the questions may sound harsh and are by nature difficult to deal with they need to be asked, and soon.

We face the possibility this August of a few more than 1,000 voting members representing only their own consciences making a top-down decision that unravels the entire tapestry of biblical and historical ministry of healing, forgiveness and salvation that makes us a church of Jesus Christ. Jesus was crucified, died and was raised from the dead to forgive us of our sins and give us eternal life with him. Jesus didn’t die to embrace your self-identity or redefine or un-sin your sin. Though we are tempted to identify ourselves today as enlightened, post-modern and advanced in every way—beyond the first disciples, the early church fathers and the reformers of the past—we need to reconsider our identity within the limitless nature of the cross and the empty tomb as life-changing events on every level, for all people and for all time. Changing lives through forgiveness, healing and the promise of life eternal is Jesus’ “business” and the only reason for the church to exist.

Part One: Forgive sins or unsin them?