The Wages of Sin
The presence or reality of sin in history cannot be denied. It has a universal character that expresses itself in various degrees. In modern human history, it is clothed in relativism and this has made it easy for humans to justify their sinful actions without any strain on their conscience.
The thrust of this piece is to examine the meaning of sin and dwell on the modern relative understanding of sin and its consequences on our souls and world. The familiar title of this article is “The Wages of Sin.”
What is Sin?
A sound definition of sin is contained in The Catechism of the Catholic Church where it is succinctly delineated as “an offence against reason, truth and right conscience; it is failure in genuine love for God and neighbor caused by a perverse attachment to certain goods.” As failure in genuine love for God and neighbour, sin becomes an offence against God and against our neighbours.
In the bible, sin is denominated as a deliberate violation of God’s commandment (see Gen. 3:3-6). In the account of the fall of man, we are presented with the outward act of disobedience of God’s injunction by Adam and Eve. At the heart of their outward act of disobedience is an act of disrespect; an act of rebellion. This is what happens at every conscious occasion of sin.
In many instances, sin comes to birth from our somewhat unreasonable quest for freedom. We often perceive God’s commandments as codes that limit our freedom, forgetting that true freedom comes with responsibility, and that freedom without responsibility is disaster! God’s commandments, from a dramatic angle, are His hands guiding us as we journey on in life. When we decide to be “free” and wade away from the cover of His hands, we wander into the wilderness of insecurity. Looking inward with the eyes of faith and reason, we understand that God’s commandments do not limit us but actually make us free as children of God to make the most of His creation, conquering and subduing it (Gen. 1:28). It is sin that limits or leads us to go into hiding like Adam and Eve (Gen. 3:10).
Sin, in our world today, is robed in garment of relativism. The proponents of same-sex marriage, abortion, euthanasia, pornography, culture of nudity, and terrorism, etc., all put on the garment of relativism. The religious extremist perceives his uncanny and irreligious ways as the right way. The world cries out loud against the innocent blood shed by the hands of religious extremists but seem to forget that the number of lives claimed through religious extremism is nothing compared to those claimed by abortionists. May God have mercy on our world!
The point we are trying to make here is that one major root of the evil in today’s world is the denial of an objective moral order. Everyone defines what is right for him or her and acts along that line. The result of this is a world marked by commotion of heavy proportion. Addressing some diplomats at the Vatican on 22nd of March, 2013, Pope Francis bewailed and lamented: Moral relativism “endangers the coexistence of peoples”. The Holy Father thus speaks for a common ethics based on the human nature as an indispensable condition for world sanity and peace.
Sin also emanates often from our unbridled desire to satisfy our passion. The longing to satisfy the appetite of the flesh without commensurate attention to that of the spirit drives us into a weird wedlock with sin. The thought that paralyzes the rapist or fornicator is on how to get that momentary pleasure and nothing else. At that instance, he is blind to the image of God that entreats his mercy and deaf to both the voice of reason and the call of the spirit. He is like a trailer carrying a heavy-sized container that suffers a failed brake system on a sloppy road at the busiest hour of the day. The rest is left to be imagined!
Where lies true and wholesome satisfaction if not in God? When He was giving the Ten Commandments to the Israelites, God introduced Himself thus: “I am the Lord, thy God…” (Exod. 20:2). Introducing Himself as the Lord our God, God wants us to understand that He is our sufficiency. In Him we find peace, rest, comfort and satisfaction; hence we need not another God. The gods of the flesh, violence, hatred, greed, money etc., will only lead us to unquenchable thirst, otherwise known as perdition!
The Wages of Sin
Addressing the Romans, St. Paul exhorts that “the wages of sin is death” (Rom. 6:23). We can only expand this abounding thought of his.
In his latest encyclical of 24th May, 2015 titled Laudato Si which is a Medieval Umbrian for “Praise be to You”, Pope Francis speaks of the need for the entire world to be united by the same concern. Although the Holy Father’s central message is on the need for us all to begin to dialogue anew about how we are shaping the future of our planet, his position is unambiguous on the need for all men and women to work in line with the original design of the Creator. The design of the Creator is that each person sees himself in the other and we all see ourselves and our common destiny in the Creator. When we act contrary to this unparalleled divine design, which is what is called sin (either against our fellow human beings, nature or God Himself) we swing swiftly to self-destruction.
There is only one reward for our ungodliness- an ungodly destiny or death. The logic here is simple: the Creator, at the beginning, had an original design that is founded on goodness and love as the only recipe for the health of His creation; anything apart from this is cancerous! Hence, our sinful desires marked by selfishness, pride and cruelty can only earn us a distorted order. Sin affords us nothing of the joys of heaven. It only rots our bodies and annihilates our souls. Our moral relativism has, so far, led us to the crossroad of universal cacophony. Do we imagine our next stop on this flight of moral relativism? It is better imagined!
+ Alfred Adewale Martins
Archbishop of Lagos
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