Son, and Holy Spirit
A Short Course on Christianity
by Rev. Fr. Joseph T. Hilinski
Interfaith Director, The Catholic Diocese of Cleveland
Sin and Death
There are two major enemies to human existence in thinking of Christians: sin and death. Sin describes all the moral disorder found in the world; such would include for example racism, murder, hate, and stealing. Sin is that evil which the human being wills to do to himself or to another.
The other enemy is death, which would also include all forms of natural disasters as earthquakes, tornadoes, forest fires as well as disease and pain which humans experience in the course of life.
There is an interplay and interaction of these great enemies to human existence. While a forest fire may well be started by nature, it becomes particularly heinous when it is begun through explicit action of a human being for that purpose of destruction.
Sin is the destructive tendencies of the human being that causes not only selfishness but also can actually lead up to the destruction of the psychological as well as physical well being of other human beings or the self. Sin, as understood in Christianity, touches the make-up of our human nature. Human nature is marred by sin. That is the meaning of original sin.
Please note that in the context of this presentation I did not mention original sin until I had first mentioned the initiative of God in looking for us, the incarnation and redemption of Jesus Christ for the sake of the human race. Remember the shepherd looking for the lost sheep. To understand the doctrine of original sin it must be seen as a subset within the greater teaching of the doctrine of Redemption and Salvation. Otherwise, we would caricature God as a vindictive brute who burdens his creatures with their mistakes. We affirm through the doctrine of original sin the seriousness of the use of liberty and the consequences of our choices. The damage of sin done to human nature can only be rectified by a new initiative of love beyond that of creation. This event called redemption not only restores by grace humanity to its original state of being made in the image and likeness of God but also promises a sharing in the mystery of the life of God.
Grace is a word used in Christianity to refer not so much to skillful movement but to presence of God in touch with a human soul moving that soul to respond in faith and love. While the human being realizes that our response can never outdo the original and continuing redemptive action of Jesus the Christ, it is incumbent on us to do whatever we can to share that goodness with others.
The teaching of Jesus on this is summarized in the marvelous sayings such as "…Your light must shine before men so that they may see goodness in your acts and give praise to your heavenly Father." Matthew
The Christian moral life is guided by the ancient teaching of Moses called the
Ten Commandments and the directives of Jesus as found in the
Sermon on the
Mount, which is part of the Gospel of St. Matthew. Jesus' two-fold commandment which echoes the Hebrew Bible in love of God and love of neighbor reaches its ultimate challenge in love of enemy and in the willingness to even offer our lives in love for others, as Jesus interprets the divine will for humanity.
But this lofty challenge is not always reflected in Christians. So Conversion and repentance
are continuing realities in a Christian's life. What happens when our deeds have not redounded to the glory of God but rather have had others cursing our God or us? God gives us the opportunity as long as we have not finished this earthly journey to repent and renew the graced life we have received in Christ.
The Sermon on the Mount
The Ten Commandments
Next Topic: Historical and
Cultural Influences on Christianity