A Sabbath Meditation: What Is Sin?

The Benedictine Breviary‘s daily Bible readings have been tracing the steps of the Israelites through Exodus lately: from captivity, suffering, and plagues to release, Red Sea, and the desert. One day last week we got the ten commandments. (Or should I say, the Ten Commandments? Capital letters give certain deserving things a little more oomph.)

As you know, I’ve been writing about Shusaku Endo’s novel Silence this Lent because, well, I’m reading it and have got it on my mind.

I’m at the point in the novel when Endo’s protagonist priest, Sebastian, has been captured. We’ve known it was going to happen, and it did. He spent the entire first half of the novel questioning the silence of God in a land of suffering–and will continue to do so throughout the second half–but he also now begins to wonder what it means to be a priest in this land, what it means to serve God. What is interesting to read, I think, is that it is in captivity, alone with his doubt, that he begins to experience God.

I’m writing about it again today because on that same day last week I spent some time meditating on the Ten Commandments (and really, how often do we do that?), I read this in the Silence:

Sin, he reflected, is not what it is usually thought to be; it is not to steal and tell lies. Sin is for one man to walk brutally over the life of another and to be quite oblivious to the wounds he has left behind. (p. 86)

Now, before you respond by saying, “Actually, stealing and telling lies is sin. The Bible makes that pretty clear. Didn’t you say you just read the Ten Commandments?” do something for me. Take a breath. Read it again. Take another breath. Read it again. What is helpful about this passage, especially for those of us who’ve spent our whole lives in the church, being preached to about sin? This is the question I’m interested in.

Because the very next sentence in the novel is the real clincher: And then for the first time a real prayer rose up in his heart.

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3 comments on “A Sabbath Meditation: What Is Sin?

  1. Elizabeth's Dad says:

    Yes, very interesting. Someone once said if we truly loved your neighbor as ourselves and put God first, we wouldn’t need the other commandments and we wouldn’t sin. And when that sinks in, it does make us what to pray, eh?

  2. elizabeth says:

    Yeah, it really is interesting when you read over the commandments with an attitude of thoughtful meditation, rather than reading a list of “how to behave.” It really is a document about community wholeness.

    Thanks for commenting!

  3. Tamara says:

    Thank you for posting this. I add a grieved amen.

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