Q: What do different religions think about sin?

Answer: A study of the major world religions reveals that three are called Abrahamic faiths, Judaism, Christianity and Islam. They are monotheistic religions that originated from Abraham’s descendants.

The Judaic faith recognizes that humans are likely to sin, but most Jewish people do not accept the original sin concept. Not all denominations of the Christian faith believe in the original sin concept, but many believe that from Adam’s disobedience Christians inherited the sin. Muslims believe that individuals are sinless at birth, but they must put forth the effort to avoid sinful acts.

Buddhist do not consider humans to be naturally sinful. They believe people have the tendency toward goodness but are capable of evil actions. Goodness must be allowed to flourish, and bad behavior corrected.

In response to the reader’s question, I will note one of the dictionary’s definition of sin. It is “an act of transgression against divine law.” The Ten Commandments given by God to Moses are considered to be the divine laws for the Christian and Judaic faiths. In Judaic tradition, if a person knowingly violates any of their 613 commandments, the violation is considered to be a sin. In Islamic beliefs, Muslims acknowledge sin as anything that goes against the commands of Allah.

Transgression against divine laws is considered to be blasphemy which is defined as “insulting or showing contempt or lack of reverence to a deity, or sacred objects, or toward something considered sacred or inviolable.” Christians can read Mark 3:28-30 to understand the seriousness of blasphemy, “Truly, I say to you, all sins will be forgiven the children of man, and whatever blasphemies they utter, but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin. He has an unclean spirit.”

Over the ages, church leaders and theologians have studied blasphemy. Some declare that the hardening of the heart against the Holy Spirit eliminates the option of repentance. Other scholars believe that a path of redemption might be found.

Most people of faith take the sacredness of God seriously. Yet, humans can be thoughtless and utter God’s name in an unacceptable way. Many times we have heard, “Oh my God!” It is not respectful, but it does not rise to a serious sin. Rabbi Joseph Telushkin, a well-known Jewish scholar and writer addressed this point. He expressed the idea that the serious usage of the Lord’s name must carry the full commitment to the sacredness of life and the glory of the Lord. From some of his thoughts, I gathered and believe that the Creator knows what is in the human heart and would reject false praises, dismiss a thoughtless expression, and understand a confused person.

For other sins, repentance and forgiveness are available for those who sincerely want to be forgiven. The words for repentance in most religions mean to turn around or to walk away from sinful acts. In other words, seek a new way. Jewish people believe that a sinner must seek forgiveness through prayer, repentance and atonement. The old Testament reveals God to be strict but loving, merciful and forgiving.

Muslims can find the words of Allah in the Quran about forgiveness “Indeed Allah loves those who repent and purify themselves.” Forgiveness requires atonement, resolution to repent, and sometimes restitution.

Christians also find love and forgiveness in the Old Testament. The New Testament presents redemption by grace and Jesus’ sacrificial love. Remember that Jesus forgave those who crucified him as recorded in Luke 23:34, “Then said Jesus, Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.” Ephesians 4:32 expresses the importance of forgiveness. “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.”

People of faith have history, tradition, sacred texts, religious laws and beliefs for guidance, yet we find that many who claim to be faithful commit acts that bring harm to others. They sin by commission or omission. Commission means a decision to act; omission means a decision not to act. Most do not commit murder or other serious, unlawful acts, but they neglect to obey the words of their sacred text. They fail to offer kindness and support to those who are in need or different. How do these actions weigh on the scales of righteousness?

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Earl Crow’s column is published Saturdays in the Winston-Salem Journal. Email him at ecrow1@triad.rr.com.

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