Sin, Hope, and Responding to Tragedies
Conor P. Williams wrote an excellent reflection on why sin is no excuse for inaction in response to tragedy, and I’ve been meaning to comment on it.
Although it wasn’t his topic, he captured exactly why religion, generally speaking, should focus on love rather than on sin. Sin is not an article of faith; salvation is. When sin is made the focus, religion turns away from fostering the loving and personal dispositions of hospitality, forgiveness and reconciliation, of mending bonds broken by sin; instead it becomes prideful organized loathing of everything unlike its own idolized vision of itself. Cruelty, joylessness, and alienation are its fruits, its delivered “good” news. The story of Jesus Christ, meanwhile, tells us that God is mindful of sin, but responds to it with love, with risky self-giving, with an invitation to return to the way of love and become whole once again. It’s a story of whole-making, as Ilia Delio would say: the weakness of God overcoming the strength of sin, love rising before death.
I have one quibble with Conor’s post. He writes:
That which appears to be tragic and sinful now will someday be redeemed, since history must eventually be redeemed as ultimately, fundamentally Good. God’s unquestionable goodness requires Christians to believe that the innumerable pains and tragedies of human life will someday make sense when Creation’s plan becomes evident. We will not know their final meaning until that time, but humans are capable of grasping it in part. Without these brief moments of transcendent clarity, there are no grounds for hope. At all.
I would say that what we’re able to grasp, in part, is not the plan of creation, but the path of love. Without freedom, there is no love. A price of freedom is the refusal of salvation–the refusal to reconcile and be reconciled–and the possibility of this refusal means that God doesn’t necessarily get what he wants. The plan of creation, if there is one, may not become evident because it may not be wholly in effect. I have no expectation that life’s innumerable pains and tragedies will make some kind of final sense, but my hope does not lie therein. I hope because I see amidst tragedy people selflessly caring for one another and weeping with one another and hoping against hope to prevent future disasters. We are the ones who must make sense of the senselessness of sin and tragedy, and we do this by the risks of love.