Of Sin and Holiness

Photo by Miles Ranno

Photo by Miles Ranno

How is a Christian to deal with sin?

This is a topic that seems to turn up over and again, constantly being pushed to the background in exasperation, and then shoved back into the foreground, as prominent Christians inevitably fall and have to be “dealt with”. How Christians compromise with sin then becomes the way in which they are judged in society’s eyes.

There is a saying that the Army of God is the only one that routinely shoots its wounded. Christianity becomes a laughingstock when Ted Haggard announces he’s not gay anymore after a few weeks of therapy. It becomes an object of rebuke when Westboro Baptist protests the funerals of soldiers, while holding signs that say, “God Hates Fags.” It is confounded time and time again when well-meaning Christians eviscerate their own over perceived sins. Christianity as a whole causes the world to shake its collective head when Christians display undeserved fealty to political leaders solely on the basis of faith, rather than good judgment.

We cast aside the sinners ─or so we think─ and embrace the holy. At least, we hope that they’re holy.

Yet , should we Christians show fealty to others based solely on our perception of their faith, when we’ve no reliable way to witness their sincerity? That kind of blind faith gets the sheep fleeced far too often. And should we indeed shoot our ‘wounded’, just because we perceive that their failings come from a lack of faith? The Bible is full of fallen heroes. In fact, with the exception of one gleaming example of Who was crucified, fallen heroes are all we Christian have got.

Christians are all missing the point, with excuses for this slash and burn such as, “if we tolerate sin, how are we to be set apart?”

Jesus didn’t say his disciples would be known for their lack of sin, but that they would be known by their love. And as for the cryptic Biblical words, “expel the immoral brother from among you”, it comes hand in hand with the caution to “judge not lest ye be judged in kind.”

The pursuit of holiness is by its very nature a personal one. One cannot achieve holiness by eradicating the sins of others around one’s self. Any attempt to do so would be useless. Look at the example of the televangelist who cheats on his wife. Certainly he does some good with his life ─ there are the weeping faces of the multitudes he preaches to that show that he has successfully brought conviction, are there not? But those tears don’t speak to the Televangelist’s holiness, they speak to the multitude’s own willingness to allow God to convict them of their sins. So when the truth comes out and one sees the televangelist for who he really is ─ a greedy, egocentric manipulator ─ he is judged on the merit of his own failing. And now the measure by which he judged the world is brought against him, and he is destroyed.

Christians would be better served if they loved holiness. Yes, the pursuit of holiness means leaving sin behind. But sin is left behind as a side effect of good behavior. If one loves to be gentle, one will not share harsh words. If one loves peace, one will not seek out conflict. If one love one’s spouse, one will not stray. If one loves one’s children, treating them cruelly would be unthinkable. If one loves others, one will not be cold or judgmental. In short, if we all hated all negative things, imagine the energy that would be expended on that hatred! We Christians would go about raging internally as we fought to kill off all bad things inside of ourselves. But, if we instead, focus on our gentle nature; focus on the potential in the people around ourselves, endeavor to call out all of the beauty in the world, then, rather than making the universe “less bad”, we’d find that we can make it better.

At that point, the question of rejecting any person becomes unnecessary. If we encounter someone who is homosexual, or in a non-committed sexual relationship, or is an alcoholic, or a convict, or any other situation deemed “unholy”, we don’t need to reject this person in order to maintain our own goodness. It’s inevitable that people, all people, will sin. But if we seek to find the good inside ourselves, goodness will grow and sin will fade. And so, when encountering people who are in the midst of sin, we should ask ourselves, do they seek to better the world? If so, then by all means, embrace this person, sin and all. Embrace them and help them on their way to holiness, and at some point, we may see their sin shrinking away, as their holiness grows.

And there is the real solution to the dilemma of sin. Just as a flame growing stronger kills darkness, the growth of holiness rids the world of sin.


About the Photographer: Miles Ranno

Miles Ranno has been behind the camera his enitre life. The type of photos he captures most often are the emotional, candid moments, ranging from love and lust, to rage and craze.  Those unrehearsed moments come and go so fast,  “it makes my head spin when I miss the opportunity to photograph them,” says he.  For this reason Mr, Ranno goes about his life with his Nikon strapped to his shoulder waiting for those poetic moments to show themselves, so that he can capture and share them with the world.

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