In defence of sin…
Sin is an easy word to throw around and I suspect many of us who engage with church conversations about questions of sexuality and gender get thoroughly fed up of it. If I never have to hear someone asking again about whether God blesses sin, it’ll be too soon. It might be said that all sin is equal and we are all sinners in one way or another. However, in my experience, the discussion of sin in connection with sexuality and gender carries a weight that it somehow doesn’t in other contexts, even very serious ones. Often I find that means in inclusive contexts we just don’t go there: we talk – quite rightly – about how much God loves us, not about sin.
In our work at OneBodyOneFaith, we’re all about queer people being able to flourish and lead full lives, in safety and joy. But we all know that life isn’t always like that. Around the world, anti-LGBT+ violence, laws and action cause harm and danger to our queer kin. Many churches and Christian organisations still perpetuate harmful and dehumanising teaching. Even some of those that have made important and inclusive decisions and changed policies still have work to do to combat prejudice and discrimination. There is plenty of work to do. As queer folk, we know that the world isn’t as it could or should be. When we think of God creating all that is – including each one of us – and calling it good, we might wonder where it all went wrong.
Now, of course, Christian theology has spent a lot of time thinking about this! We have a whole set of ways to talk about how human action and inaction damages our world, damages each other and is less than the good creation that God wills for us all. More than that, we have a faith that teaches us that the love of God is greater than all of this and that God wills to overcome it. When we face violence and exclusion, discrimination and prejudice, we face sin and its effects. And I wonder if as inclusively-minded Christians, we need to be more ready to think about it in those terms. Sin is what gets in the way of loving God and loving our neighbour: and we see that in so many contexts.
So I want to put in a word for sin – let’s reclaim that and be ready to name what we see and experience. Let’s be co-creators with God of a world where sin and shame and exclusion and violence are overcome and we really know what it feels like to love and be loved by God and to love and to be loved by our neighbour.
Mark Rowland, Co-Chair