Sin is real. Part of human freedom includes the ability to make decisions. Some of the decisions are good, and some are bad. Sinfulness is the state of human freedom when individuals make decisions that separate the individual decision-maker from God. Each person makes decisions that separate us from God. We make those kinds of decisions every day. We are sinful when we are selfish, impatient, unkind, inconsiderate, or any of the myriad forms of human behavior.
Poverty exists in many forms. The greatest poverty is missing out on God’s grace. Systemic poverty creates situations in which people are born without opportunity, without adequate food or shelter. Material poverty is real but can be vanquished. I do not pretend to fully understand poverty, its causes, or even the possible solutions. However, I do see people who embrace their own desires and live into their sinfulness.
Writing about sin is not intended to be a launchpad for a diatribe on social ills. Lists of dos and don’ts lead to Pharisee-ism. The rules become God. Sinfulness is that state of fallenness and the continuing need to be transformed by God. Being transformed by God does not lift a person out of material poverty; it cannot break the chains of systemic poverty. However, it can lead to a more fulfilling life.
Voodoo worship about to begin.
As I write this blog entry, I am sitting in a guesthouse in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, and there is a Voodoo worship service about to begin nearby. I am here with a group of 14 people from my church. We are trying to bring God’s love into the lives of 34 children who live at the Source de Lumiere orphanage. Many of the children lost one or both of their parents in the 2010 earthquake.
The 2010 Haitian earthquake is part of that nebulous category of natural evils. The world quakes, floods, rains, or burns, and people suffer. Many learned people associate natural disasters with God’s condemnation of creation. In the Noah story in Genesis, God makes an explicit promise to never take out divine frustration on creation through massive destruction. Therefore, there must be another explanation for natural disasters. Human disaster, on the other hand, does have a divine relationship. That is, God gives humankind the gift of freedom. People use their freedom to act selflessly or selfishly.
In a recent conversation with some Haitian pastors, they told me about Voodoo. They said that many Haitian Christians practice syncretism between Voodoo and Christianity. For everyday matters, e.g. Lord, give me a good day, they turn to the Christian God. For serious matters, e.g. God, cure my illness, they return to Voodoo. This is the freedom to act and make decisions. It is the freedom to put one’s faith in God or in something else. For Christians, God is capable of handling both great and small problems.
Transformation in Christ means becoming a new being. Instead of discontinuing sinful behavior, per se, being transformed means thirsting for God in a deep way. I have been in Haiti since last Tuesday. Because I have been dehydrated before, I have made it a practice to habitually drink water since arriving on this beautiful island. I keep refilling my water bottle and keep drinking it. I am well hydrated, but since I have had the experience of being dehydrated, I cannot help but keep drinking water. Being transformed in Christ is similar. Even after praying and becoming synchronized with God’s will, the transformed Christian keeps thirsting for God, keeps growing, keeps reading about God, and keeps turning away from things that serve to separate one from God.
For the Christian, Voodoo is like so many other distractions, like selfishness, greed, consumerism, materialism, or objectivism. They take Christians away from focusing on Christ. For me, I want to focus on being transformed by God.