Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Thoughts on the Equality of Sin

Nearly two weeks ago my world was rocked. One hellfire and brimstone preacher set up in the free speech zone next to the student union and blasted students and passerby’s for their inequities. Crowds gathered around. Well meaning believers didn’t step foot in the ring for fear of becoming an accessory to the sentiments on display. Those not in the Christian camp had a much larger voice. One student masked as a devil screamed obscenities at the preacher for as long as I was there (the second time) and another person gave a sales pitch for medicinal marijuana. The third time I was there a big bang theorist stepped up to the plate renouncing the existence of God. It was a circus. Like I said, it killed me to watch that as the representation of Christianity.

Now that I have painted the picture; I will confess that I slipped on my words as I witnessed to the people left over in the union. Once the preacher was told to leave the free speech area for another one on Landis Green I started to talk with the big bang guy. More people joined in. Everything was going well, like leading a small bible study and then I slipped. Someone asked me to explain sin. “Easy enough,” I thought. Sin literally means “to miss the mark”. It is to fall short of the life we are called to by God by dishonoring Him or dishonoring each other. Failing to guard each other’s dignity and revere God. Whichever phrase you like. Then he asked me about his sin relative to other sin. The idea I’ve always heard is that sin is the same.

Then, I said something someone had said to me once without thinking about it. A while ago, this person told me that if God is above us and our sin looks like a histogram it’s hard to tell the difference. Our inequities are like micro-machines. I was quickly corrected by someone that said God is all around us. True, I should think before I speak. The curtain is torn and now God is alive in us. Luckily someone else asked a question and bailed me out of having to go deep with the relativity of sin. Then a week later I was waiting for new tires to be put on my car and the relativity of sin hit me. This is what I scribbled down:

Humans assign a relative value to sin, it’s in our nature. The operation of our justice system relies on these relative values. We’re up in arms (as a society) when someone gets out early on parole after committing rape versus stealing a purse. We fear our world has become less safe and we believe we are in danger. I wonder if the reason that God doesn’t seem to assign those relative values is not just because of His wisdom and character but because of the infinite nature of the game God is playing. I don’t mean to say that God is rolling the dice with our life . . .

Mark talked a bit about game theory and life, so I suppose it’s my turn now. Sometimes game theory is just not a good predictor of real life. This infinite game that I referred to in my scribblings is a good example. Economists posit that behavior changes in an infinite game. They cooperate more because they know it’s in their best interest for the future (which doesn’t necessarily mean they’re altruistic). The games however can’t be infinite because the players of the game have a finite number of years on Earth. Then some argue that people could continue to play the game in their afterlife. Mark and I both agree this is a bunch of junk. When I die I don’t think economics is going to play much of a role in my heavenly existence. I won’t be a gamer.

God as a player in the infinite game however seems much more appropriate because He has been, is, and always will be. The reason this would matter is because God ultimately sees things in the long run view and works for the benefit of His creation. To see this we need only look as far as the servant hood of Jesus. Something Jesus also did very well is challenge people. One line in particular sticks out to me:

I tell you, my friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body and after that can do no more. But I will show you whom you should fear: Fear him who, after the killing of the body, has power to throw you into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him. -Luke 12:4-5

We're to play like it's an infinite game even though it's finite.

I could get into the justice system and the relative values that we place on some crimes (sin) over others and how we view this as correct because of the finite life we are living but I have to do my homework. Last thing, yesterday, Mark told me something awesome about the relativity. We can't assign the values because the consequences of our own selfishness, for instance, aren't as obvious as the consequences of theft or murder.

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