Crazy Sin

    A friend was driving me around. “Don’t you agree?” he was saying. “People are fundamentally crazy.”
    I hadn’t thought of it that way. But after a bit I said, “Well, they’re sinners. And sin just never makes sense.”
    It’s hard to think about sin. It’s about “missing the mark,” about having “erred and strayed from [God’s] ways.” It happens in “thought, word, and deed,” in “things done and left undone.” It is fundamentally a rebellion against our maker.
    But sin’s optics are deceitful. It promises a path of life that, by rebelling from God, can achieve independence. But God is not something in the universe that we can run away from. You can run away from Dallas. You can run away from your job. You can run away from your Aunt Agatha (as Bertie Wooster says, the aunt who chews broken glass). But God is not a place and not a thing, and he doesn’t chew glass.
    “Where can I go then from your Spirit? where can I flee from your presence?” So asks the Psalmist (139:6)—rhetorically, because there is no place where God is not. God is the cause of all places; as their cause, as the reason they exist, God is everywhere.
    What erring and straying and rebelling against God ultimately means is that we have turned God into an idol from whom we then turn away. Sin is thus, always, an implicit idolatry.
    It is also, as we say, “it’s own punishment.” Why? Because to attempt to turn away from God is at the same time an attempt to turn away from our humanity. To sin is to become less of a person, to become less human.
    Socrates had this insight as well. The person most harmed in a murder, he said, was the one who committed the deed. His interlocutors were incredulous: Surely it’s better to kill someone than to be killed? But no, said Socrates; it is worse to do wrong than to suffer it.
    In the end, sin never makes sense. If there is a crime, we look for a motive. But a motive is an explanation in terms of a good. He killed her in order to steal her jewels. Jewels are beautiful and valuable; they are good in themselves, and it is good to want things that are good. But a higher good is the life of a person. Why did the sinner choose the lesser good over the higher good?
    Sins of thought and word and deed, things done and left undone, all of them are choices for a lesser good when we should have been seeking a higher good. Why do we sin? It doesn’t make sense.
    I think my friend is right: we’re all crazy. But see Romans 7:25. Thanks be to God who delivers us from the wretched craziness of sin!
    Out & About. This Sunday, February 25, I am to speak on the deadly sin of gluttony at St. Matthew’s Cathedral, 5100 Ross Ave., Dallas. (Will I make any sense?) That class is at 9:30. I will also be preaching at the Eucharists at 8 and 10:30.
    From Thursday, March 1, through Sunday, March 4, I am giving the Muhlenberg Lenten Reflections at Calvary-St. George’s in New York City. The talks are at different times, in different locations; a schedule with registration form is here:

The Rev. Canon Victor Lee Austin. Ph.D., is the Theologian-in-Residence for the diocese and is the author of several books including, "Friendship: The Heart of Being Human" and "A Post-Covid Catechesis.: