Comment: Like saying we are neither alive nor dead

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Like saying we are neither alive nor dead

Of course I am cognizant that you may not subscribe to the traditions that recognizes these states of existence, but such a declaration muddles your words of advice when it does not clarify what is meant by saint or sinner. If, for example, we take saints to exemplify responsible actions through their virtue of temperance, how do we continue beyond this possible perceived incongruity of 'we are [not] saints, but we are fully responsible for... our actions?'

Perhaps it would have sufficed to say that we are fully responsible for all our actions as a lead into the crux of your advice?

Indeed, there is more that could be said of sin. I started reading a book many years ago, conspicuously titled "Sin: a history," which has sat on my bookshelf until now. Pursuant to the publisher's copyright disclaimer, here's a snippet from the preface from the book (for those reading this reply who are inclined to know):

While reading the Damascus Covenant, one of the most important texts found among the Dead Sea Scrolls, I noticed that its language about human sin was strikingly different from that of the Hebrew Bible. Whereas the Bible's most common metaphor for sin is that of a weight an individual must carry, the scroll I was reading viewed sin as a debt that had to be repaid or remitted... For during the era in which sin begins to be thought of as a debt, human virtue assumes the role of a merit or credit. This first becomes evident in the book of Tobit, where we learn that the giving of alms to the poor creates a "treasury in heaven" for the virtuous person. In times of crisis, that treasury can be used to pay down a debt of one's sin. From this notion will emerge the important Jewish concept of the "merits of the fathers," that is, the idea that the virtuous deeds of Israel's righteous ancestors have produced an enormous treasury in heaven that subsequent Israelites can draw upon in times of trouble. A similar construal arose at the same time among Christians. For them, Christ's life of obedience had funded a "treasury of merits" that was later supplemented by the work of the saints. As students of the Protestant Reformation know, this idea would become controversial in the sixteenth century, for it seemed to put a high value on human works at the expense of faith. Sin, I realized, had a history. The developments in the characterization of sin had an immeasurable effect on how biblical ideas were put into practice. If one wants to address and overcome the theological disputes that arose from the Reformation, one must attend carefully to how the correlative concepts of sin and virtue developed over time. Their meaning and role in the religious life are not univocal over the course of the tradition's development.

Of course if one dismisses the idea of sin, its history would be a moot point. But for those who view the reality of sinners and saints with the certainty of life or death, it goes without saying that as sinners we hope to be saints. Perhaps one way to look at the saint-sinner dichotomy is this: sinners are prone to view life through a singular perspective (i.e. self-centered) that tends to draw away from relationships with others; saints, then, are keenly aware of their own perspective but are also aware of others, which leads to empathy and even love of others and tends to draw them into relationships of goodwill. Keeping in mind that sage dictum, "I know that I know nothing," it is the person that declares themselves a saint that is blind to their faults while the admitted sinner is keenly aware of what must be done at all times to guard against falling and to rise to saintliness. For the Christian, the true measure of a saint is this:

And one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question, to test him. “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?” And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it, You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the law and the prophets.”

(Matthew 22:35-40)