(Still) Sinning Like a Christian

Willimon speaks well on sin in this book, Sinning Like a Christian (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2005).  The introduction is great – as is the rest of the book.  In the intro, he says that we Christian sinners understand sin: “it is to sit lightly on our meager moral triumphs, knowing that they are tinged with more than a touch of sin, and at the same time to be gentle with our neighbor’s failures, not expecting too much from people like us” (p. 12).  Later in the intro Willimon notes with Scott Peck that if you really want to see sin, genuine evil, you need to start by looking in the church: it is the nature of evil to “hide among the good” (p. 14).  What Willimon is saying here, I believe, is that we Christians have the standard for what is truly evil, and that standard tell us that it is not simply out there, but in here, in us.  It is easy to go on a moral crusade against abortion or homosexuality, but at the start and end of the day the chief place the Christian has to face sin is inside her/his heart.

When you hear the word “sin” or “evil” as a Christian, you don’t start by pointing to something in the world, but yourself.  That’s what Willimon means by “sinning like a Christian;” he also agrees with Luther – simil iustus et peccator.

Here’s one blurb on pride.

“As frail, mortal, vulnerable creatures, we react to our vulnerability in futile ways, one of them being our pride.  There is something incredibly pitiful about modern, twenty-first century North American people telling ourselves that our greatest need is for more self-esteem, more self-confidence, more self-assurance – pitifully revealing how little esteem, confidence, or assurance that we have in ourselves.  Of course, from a Christian point of view, that’s the problem – ourselves” (p. 46).

This is a fascinating book well worth reading, even if you’re not all the way on board with everything Willimon writes.  In reading it, you’ll learn something quite sinful about sin, your sin.

shane lems

sunnyside wa