Canon Tom Kennar, rector of St Faith’s in Havant, reflects on the nature of sin, and what Jesus called ‘the way’
They really are terrible places – full of dungeons and dark tales of the inhumanity that human beings are capable of doing to each other. I will spare you the gory details – and believe me, many of them are very gory indeed.
I’ve been fortunate to have travelled quite extensively throughout the world.
For example, I visited Romania in 1990, just after the fall of the evil Ceaucescu regime – and I saw again, on that occasion, how inhuman that human beings can be to one another.
What is it I wonder, within us humans that drives us to such horror?
Every day, it seems, we hear of yet another atrocity – a bomb in a market place, a terrorist who blows himself up, the advance of one lunatic war-band or another over hitherto peaceful lands.
On a smaller scale, we even see inhumanity at work on our own streets.
What is it, I wonder, that drives human beings to sell illegal drugs or gain enormous wealth for themselves, while their brothers and sisters are starving?
The Bible’s diagnosis for this problem is pretty simple. It is summed up, in English, in an old English word – sin. To the medieval Englishman, the word sin had a very different meaning to the one we assume today.
A ‘sin’ was actually an archery term - it was the act of missing the target.
If you shot an arrow and missed the target, it was called a sin.
So for us, it might be helpful to remember that the word we use to describe human wrong-doing really means ‘missing the mark’.
The question, of course, is ‘what is the mark’?
Well, the target, the mark, that the Scriptures hold out for us is nothing less than the holiness of God.
When we fail to live God’s way or peace, justice, charity, hope and faith – then we miss the mark. We sin.
I have seen for myself the consequences of humanity missing the mark in more places than I care to remember. But I try to hold on to the idea that God has shown us a different way of living – what Jesus called ‘the way’.
I pray that all of us may find the strength, and the grace, to live ‘up to the mark’ that Jesus has set, and which the other great religions of the world have echoed.
n St Faith’s Church is in West Street, Havant.
Call (023) 9249 2129.