What is a sin?
Is it an immoral act? An illegal one? A failure of virtue? A crisis of conscience?
There are countless descriptions and definitions of this concept— this idea of “missing the mark”— but there are few who explain it in such beautiful simplicity as the great theologian Augustine, who put it this way: We sin when we have our loves out of order.
According to Augustine we are all a little bit broken. Not in a dark, depraved sort of way, but in a wounded, distracted sort of way. And it is when we make choices from these broken places within us that we often find ourselves prioritizing our lesser loves over our greater loves.
Like when we acknowledge that we love our families more than we love Facebook, yet we choose to spend our precious moments at home mindlessly scrolling our News Feeds instead of connecting with our children and spouses.
Or when we recognize that taking care of the people we love brings us more joy than money, yet we hoard our resources instead of using them to serve others.
Or when we say that we value our health and vitality more than we value Netflix and Pop Tarts, yet we consistently shortchange ourselves on the sleep, nutrition and exercise we need to keep our bodies healthy and strong.
It all comes down to disordered love.
So then how do we reorient our lives so as to make them a more accurate reflection our highest priorities and truest loves? It turns out, getting our heads in order is only half the battle. Getting our hearts on board requires us to closely examine the structural integrity of all our internal foundations. To identify the broken places. To stop spinning long enough to ask ourselves why we do what we do. To sit patiently and wait for the answer, no matter how painful or embarrassing it may be. To acknowledge that we are all deeply divided, and then, to do whatever hard work is required to bridge the gaps.
Soren Kierkegaard wrote: “Only the one who descends into the underworld rescues the beloved.” Often, we have to be willing to engage in a moral struggle with ourselves in order to bring forth the truest expression of who we are. We have to be prepared to confront our own depths in order to reach new heights. We have to examine our brokenness in order to discover our wholeness. There is a crack in everything, after all. But, as Leonard Cohen wrote, “that’s how the light gets in.”