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You don’t expect a psychologist to have much patience for sin. That’s why many religious folk stay away from people like us — we discount their experience with our definitions of psychopathology and our recommendations for SSRI’s (anti-depressants). They would like to be heard (not diagnosed) and they want to understand what their sin means to them.
I have a client who is religiously obsessed and, of course, only on his sin. I wish that he was obsessed with what God obsesses on. But all he can think about is his “missing the mark” and “making God mad.”
So what does he do? He avoids church and the bible because this makes him anxious, and he does some pretty awful sexual things because it doesn’t much matter since he is such a sinner.
Sometimes our counselling sessions are more like a philosopher’s cafe than therapy.
The theologian Cornelius Plantinga in his book “Engaging God’s World” (add that one to your reading list) puts it like this – “Sin is culpable disturbance of shalom.” So…
“Shalom” is the Hebrew word for peace, wholeness, health, and blessing. Shalom is the harmony God intends for the world. Shalom is how God wants things to be. Shalom is peace with yourself, with your neighbor, with the earth, with God.
Interesting. This is mostly what therapists are after too.
Read the newspaper. Watch Netflix. Things aren’t how they’re supposed to be. Nor is my life for that matter. This is the disturbance, from environmental degradation to domestic violence to religious obsession to the petty little ways we disrespect each other, this world isn’t everything it could be.
Culpable. Guilt, responsibility, ownership – culpable is any way you have contributed to the disturbance of shalom we see all around us.
Sin is anything and everything we do to disrupt the fullness, goodness and harmony God desires for the world.
For more on the nature of sin, see Rob Bell’s excellent blog on the subject.