I currently have sin on my mind. It is difficult to imagine a concept with more theological baggage than that of sin. By its simplest and perhaps most literal definition, sin means to miss the mark, whether it is established in codified law, or understood as absolute perfection. As human beings, we are well aware of our limitations and imperfection. Sin is a term that can be used to describe our awareness of imperfection. Missing the mark causes negative emotions such as guilt and shame. When others sin, we may respond with fear and anger. Throughout the history of human civilization, religions and laws have been built in order to clean up the negative effects of sin as the experience of imperfection and to actively seek to prevent future misdeeds and failures.
Christian approaches to sin typically involve a process of confession, repentance, and devotion to the unique redemptive work of Jesus Christ. Exactly how this process works is a matter of much debate, but these are the basic motions. I tend to view this as an ongoing process and as a cycle that builds on itself. Confession occurs as soon as we become aware of our imperfection. Repentance is a manifestation of our desire to turn away from our imperfection and to remedy its negative effects. Devotion to the unique redemptive work of Jesus Christ not only recognizes that this process is beyond our control, but also spurs us on into deeper confession, deeper repentance, and deeper devotion.
These are all very active words and Christianity is indeed a very active faith. It would be most excellent if these basic motions would be more public. The church needs to proclaim to the world, “we confess our imperfection and our sin; we are doing X, Y, and Z things to turn away from our misdeeds and failures and to seek remediation; we devote our lives to Jesus Christ, through whom all things are possible!”
How can the church more clearly manifest active repentance? I like to think that it is through working to fix the broken power structures of this world that force people into poverty, violence, and destitution. I like to think that if we treat “the least of these” with the same devotion we give to Jesus Christ, our Savior, it would show the world that our faith is real, relevant, and worthwhile.
What are some other means of publicly displaying active repentance?