Last Sunday in my Sunday school class, we reached the part of the Lord’s Prayer that asks for forgiveness of sins/debts/trespasses. Among the topics which came up, and to which we would have returned today if all church events had not been cancelled due to the severe winter weather, were the question of what “sin” should mean for Christians today, and whether we ought to obey commandments for which we cannot understand the rationale.
Despite what you will sometimes hear, it is not the case that liberal and progressive Christians have no concept of sin or no concern with morality. Far from it. We just do not accept arbitrary commands and presume that they are divinely revealed. We see within the Bible that even the Bible’s authors regularly challenge, add to, subtract from, and reinterpret laws and commands. Why should we consider it “unbiblical” to do the same? And so we seek a better reason than “it says so in the Bible” for what we emphasize and what we prohibit, since we honestly acknowledge that the Bible says many contradictory things, and that simply following what the Bible says in certain passages has led time and time again to conservative Christians being on the wrong side of history – from trying to exclude uncircumcised Gentiles in Paul’s time, to defending slavery more recently, to name just a couple of examples.
I suggested last week in my class that it would be a good exercise to find a commandment in the Bible that you instinctively consider not to be applicable to yourself or to our time. Then see if you can figure out whether you have an actual rationale for that decision.
Since weather prevents my class from meeting today, I am sharing this here, inviting both those who normally attend my Sunday school class, and all those who read this blog, to participate in discussing this topic. I hope this gives you something useful to do during this blizzard.
I’ve shared some of my own thoughts as a liberal Christian here on the blog before, about how principles ought to take priority over passages. But even the principles can sometimes be adopted without a clear rationale. And so those too ought to be discussed when considering this topic.
To end on a humorous note, I thought I’d share an idea I had, even though I didn’t follow through on it. I had the idea in Sunday school class last week to make a cartoon which shows some people being challenged as to why they had come onto church property despite a “No Trespassing” sign, and the people responding that they had assumed the sign indicated which version of the Lord’s Prayer is used at the church! I’m not much of a cartoonist, but if someone finds the idea worth turning into a cartoon and makes it, please let me know so that I can share it on the blog!