Third Sunday of Lent
Friedrich Schleiermacher was an 18th century theologian/philosopher who described sin in terms of “distorted vision” – a weakness in our consciousness of God.
On the face of it, sin seems an easy thing to define. After all, we have the Ten Commandments as our guide. But the devil gets into the details. For example, Jesus pointed to sins of the heart and mind: the things we don’t do overtly, but lurk within us.
Schleiermacher didn’t see sin as necessarily evil: what creates evil is when we act upon our distorted vision and inflict its results upon others.
Beyond our own religious sphere, we can look to the so-called Islamic State to see a distorted vision of God’s place in the world, of God’s will; and we can see the evil that occurs when this is enacted, debasing the sanctity of human life in slavery, cruelty and killing.
Whether the destruction of human artefacts and heritage is sinful or evil is less easy to gauge on purely biblical terms; on the other hand, Jesus does seem to have anticipated the destruction of the temple 35 years after his resurrection.
The incident of temple-cleansing in John’s gospel shows how good intentions can be turned into sin: the sacrificial system was exploited for personal gain and profit, and this angered Jesus.
In the end, the sacrificial system was rendered unnecessary by the sacrifice of Christ, and the Romans put the seal on it with the destruction of the temple.
We see the incarnate God walking amongst us, trying to show us how to set things right. This is a new order, seen as foolishness by many, yet as Paul notes, it is God’s wisdom.
We should remember this in acknowledging our own defective vision and consciousness of God.