Daily Meditations

Sin: Symptom of Separation. Hidden with Christ in God.

The Judeo-Christian creation story says that we were created in the very “image and likeness” of God: “Let us create humanity in our own image, in the likeness of ourselves” (Genesis 1:26). The true human identity must build on this foundational goodness, a true identity “hidden in the love and mercy of God,” as Thomas Merton once put it. [1] “Image” is our objective identity as children of God and “likeness” is our degree of personal appropriation of that very identity. We need both, although many Christians were not told about the first and gave exclusive emphasis to the second. Largely ineffective moralism has thus dominated most organized religion—without any grounding or power from core identity.

To become who we were created to be, we must each get our own “who” right! Who am I? Where do I objectively abide? Where do I come from? Is my DNA divine or not?

The great illusion that we must all overcome is that of separateness. Religion’s primary task is to communicate union, to reconnect people to their original identity “hidden with Christ in God” (Colossians 3:3). Throughout much of the Bible “sin” is perceived as an objective state and “sinners” as a class of people. God’s clear and specific job description is to undo separation: “My dear people, we are already the children of God; it is only what is in the future that has not yet been revealed, and then all we know is that we shall be like God” (1 John 3:2). Jesus is The Great Reconnector—by modeling his own objective connection with God and telling us to do the same.

The word “sin” as we now use it is very problematic. It shames, but it does not enlighten or invite, which means it does not really help or change people except perhaps at the level of conformity. Most of us associate “sin” with personal naughty behaviors and individual moral unworthiness (i.e., as a personal fault more than a foundational illusion). I am not denying that if you have the foundational illusion, you will certainly operate in a very selfish and sinful way—because that small self is now all that you have!

What most people call “sin” is more the symptom of sin, not the delusional state itself! It is this common state of believed or chosen autonomy from God and others that must be addressed. Our primary and self-destructive illusion is that we are separate and alone. This is the true basis, motivation, and loneliness that leads to all “sin.”

~Adapted from Richard Rohr, Things Hidden: Scripture as Spirituality (Franciscan Media: 2008), 27-29


[1] Thomas Merton, New Seeds of Contemplation (Abbey of Gethsemane: 1961), 35.