Friday, January 09, 2009

Metaphors of Sin

(After another long dry spell, I have returned...for help...)

So, I'm doing a series for our weekly youth worship gatherings (Remix) on the narrative of scripture, pulling out the dominant themes and connecting them all in the life of Christ. I'm stealing McLaren's book title "The Story We Find Ourselves In" to help the students make meaning of their own lives in light of the overall narrative arc of scripture.

Of course, one may argue that there are multiple "arcs" within scripture, or that there are some competing views on which arc is correct (and true?). I'm using some stuff that Chris Folmsbee helped me understand at NYWC. The first three weeks are pretty basic: creation, fall, covenant. Each week we'll lay out who God is and who we are in light of that movement of the narrative, concluding with a creative/contemplative/active response.

Gravity and Sin
So as I'm preparing for the week on the fall I'm trying to think of different metaphors for brokenness and sin. I've played the dark theme quite a few times so I do not want to use that one again. As I was thinking of sin and the brokenness that it brings (both corporatly and individually) and how binding that brokenness is. Then I started wondering if gravity would be a good metaphor. Note that I am not talking about grativity in the sense of seriousness (like this book) but about the scientific law that keeps my chair on the ground.

What do you think?
Is this a good metaphor? Does it lack something? Every metaphor will obviously emphasis a few sides of what it is representing and underemphasize other sides. What does it underemphasize?

What metaphors have you found to be helpful for your own understanding of sin?


Nate Youngblood said...

A few thoughts. First of all, I understand what you mean when you say that sin brings brokenness. But the older I get the more I believe there is brokenness that we bring upon ourselves (because of our choices) and there is brokenness in which we all participate. (sickness, death, ect) This is the brokenness that causes me to hang my head and thick this work is "one f...d up place" Both are in a result of the fall. I get nervous with these topics because the tendency in many Christian circles is to paint a picture of ourselves that results in self-loathing and self-hatred, two things incredibly opposite to the heart and mind of Christ. Identifying the difference between a broken world, a broken person, and and outright defiance of God seems important. I sure don't have it all figured out, but thought it was worth mentioning.

As far as metaphors, we used one in africa of a parent and a child. The parent has prepared their family for a formal function with nice clothes. The child disobeys the parent, plays in the dirt and becomes very dirty, then tries to run and hug the parent. The parent then works to clean the child all the while trying to stay clean.

I don't think the metaphor really holds true, as I'm still working through how the Lord interacts with us in the midst of our "dirt" but the base idea might be helpful.

Jonathan Mills said...

Josh --
Don't know if this helps but it's one of my favorite illustrations of sin:

Thomas Costain's history, THE THREE EDWARDS, described the life of Raynald Ill, a fourteenth-century duke in what is now Belgium.

Grossly overweight, Raynald was commonly called by his Latin nickname, Crassus, which means "fat." After a violent quarrel, Raynald's younger brother Edward led a successful revolt against him. Edward captured Raynald but did not kill him. Instead, he built a room around Raynald in the Nieuwkerk castle and promised him he could regain his title and property as soon as he was able to leave the room.

This would not have been difficult for most people since the room had several windows and a door of near-normal size, and none was locked or barred. The problem was Raynald's size. To regain his freedom, he needed to lose weight. But Edward knew his older brother, and each day he sent a variety of delicious foods. Instead of dieting his way out of prison, Raynald grew fatter.

When Duke Edward was accused of cruelty, he had a ready answer: "My brother is not a prisoner. He may leave when he so wills." Raynald stayed in that room for ten years and wasn't released until after Edward died in battle. By then his health was so ruined he died within a year... a prisoner of his own appetite.

If nothing else, it's a great story!


Josh said...

Thanks for the thoughts. I do think that there are certainly different versions of Christianity that overemphasize the power of sin over the power of God's redemptive action. At the same time there are versions of Christianity that overemphasize God's grace and love without the emphasis on the power of sin/brokenness/fallenness. I think the reality of sin (both corporate and personal) should draw us to our knees more often than not to beg for God's grace and that the reality of God's grace should pull us to our feet to give us strength for the journey.

I'd be curious to hear more about the illustration that you gave. How did that fit within their culture? Was it used to convey the incarnation?

Josh said...


That's a crazy story. I might just have to use it in a lesson sometime soon. Kinda gross, actually...

Thanks for sharing...