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Monday, April 12, 2010

What I’m Reading Today: Luke 18-19

One of the parables contained in today’s passage from Luke is a controversial parable that raises the ire of many progressives. That parable is the story of what Eugene Peterson terms the Tax Man and the Pharisee in the Message.

The parable causes many progressives trouble because of the way the Tax Man – the one whom Jesus praises - conducts himself in the Temple. When the Tax man approached the presence of God in the Temple, Jesus told us he did so by slumping “in the shadows, his face in his hands, not daring to look up” and said these words: “‘Forgive me, a sinner.”

Those words are uncomfortable because many of us children of the Enlightenment would much prefer to focus exclusively on what Rousseau and others would call the perfectibility of humanity. The traditional notion of sin (especially in relation to our human nature) calls that perfectibility into question. As a result, we often end of getting rid of the notion of sin all together.

I, however, have no problem thinking of myself as someone who wrestles with sin. Maybe that’s because I was lucky enough to learn during seminary that the word we know of as sin is derived from the Hebrew word that means simply “missing the mark”. I know that I frequently “miss the mark” (both unintentionally and intentionally). That’s why I’m so comfortable with the notion of sin.

So what about you? Do you find yourself focusing exclusively on the goodness and perfectibility of humanity; or are you able to carve out some room to acknowledge both the limitations of humanity and our tendency to “miss the mark”?

Til next time…

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