Most of us have a few sins from our past that haunt us. Some of us have recurring sins that we just cannot break free from. Like St. Paul, we cry out, “For I do not do the good I want, but I do the evil I do not want.” Why do we do keep sinning? Today we will explore the “why.”
As Christians, we sometimes spend a lifetime looking back over our shoulder psychoanalyzing ourselves, trying to figure out why we did the sinful things we’ve done. For some, a pattern of recurring sin leaves them asking “why”. Both past and current sins consume us with guilt and shame. When questioning our propensity to sin, we often want to know the why behind the what.
Our sins leave us with scars long after God has forgiven us. As we reflect on our past mistakes, or on our bondage to recurring sins, we might be tempted to use the words of St. Paul found in Romans 7:25, “What I do, I do not understand. For I do not do what I want, but I do what I hate.”
While doing my research on sin I came across a definition found in the Catholic Catechism. I was particularly struck by one word used in the definition of sin. Sin was defined as follows:
“Sin is an offense against reason, truth, and right conscience; it is failure in genuine love for God and neighbor caused by a perverse attachment to certain goods. It wounds the nature of man and injures human solidarity. It has been defined as ‘an utterance, a deed, or a desire contrary to the eternal law.’”
The phrase, “an offense against reason” captivated my attention. It led me to ask several friends a question as I was preparing this message. I asked them to fill in the blank in the following sentence.
Sin is an offense against ________.
Most answered “God.” Some said “My neighbor.” Not one person answered “Reason.” For the record, prior to reading the written definition of sin, I would not have answered “reason” either. Having said this, I think all of us already understood that our sins are an offense against God and neighbor. Of that there should be no doubt. In today’s message, I want to focus on the reality that sin is also an offense against “reason.”
Reason can be defined as “a cause, explanation or justification for an action or event.” It is also the power of the mind to think, understand, and form judgments by a process of logic. In other words, reason is the grounds, basis, motivation, or rationale behind the actions that we take.
In the context of sin, reason is the why behind the what. Now here is the part of this that fascinates me. Because sin is an offense against reason, we can therefore assume sin is always unreasonable. Why am I so interested in this? As I said above, many Christians are continually looking for the reason behind their sins. We ask the question, “Why did I do that?” My conclusion based on the definition of sin, is that the “why” is likely an unanswerable question. Sin lacks reason! Sin is illogical!
Let’s pursue this a little further. Is sin ever reasonable? No! We were created by a benevolent and loving God who longs to have us with Him for eternity. Doing anything to offend God, or to jeopardize our salvation is outside of reason. Yet we all sin, all the time. So, from a clear-eyed perspective, sin is without doubt, an offense against reason.
Through this ministry I come in contact with many people who are troubled and haunted by their past sins. Many more are troubled by the recurring sins they can’t seem to break free from. This leaves many of us desperately seeking the answer to the “why” question. “Why did I do that sin?” “Why can’t I stop committing my recurring sins?” Some people are tortured by the “why.”
It was unreasonable for Adam and Eve to disobey God’s command not to eat from the tree of knowledge, for Cain to kill Able, for King David to commit adultery and murder, for Judas to betray Jesus, and for Peter to deny Jesus three times. Likewise, it is unreasonable for us to sin.
Like Peter, we can be impetuous and impulsive. To be impulsive means to act quickly with no thought to the consequences. No one acting with reason would kill someone. No one acting with reason would gossip. No one acting with reason would steal. No one acting with reason would be unjust. No one acting with reason would allow their passions to control their behaviors.
I need to state a critically important point. Acknowledging that sin is an offense against reason does not in any way reduce our culpability. We are sinners, and our sins offend God! Therefore, we must take ownership for our sins and ask God for forgiveness. Just because sin is without reason does not negate its harm.
So where does this leave us? It leaves us with the understanding that we are not alone. Like countless people in both the Old and New Testament, we too turn away from God and He runs after us to forgive us and take us back. Romans 3:23 states, “all have sinned and are deprived of the glory of God.” But, Romans 11:32 states, “For God delivered all to disobedience, that he might have mercy upon all.”
The next time you are weighed down by the “why” behind your past or present sinfulness, try to let go of the “why’ and instead simply cry out, “Lord have mercy on me a sinner” and “Jesus I place my trust in you.”
Heavenly Father, my sins offend you and they offend my neighbor. They also leave me asking why. All of my sins are an offense against reason. With the help of Your Holy Spirit, help me to lay my sins at the foot of the cross. Grant me forgiveness from my past and present sins. And, above all help me to experience a deep inner peace knowing that you have shown mercy on me. Amen!
4th Day Letters celebrated our 12th anniversary on September 22, 2023.
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