Saturday, 5 February 2011

Sin,Sacrifice and Salvation

Post by Graham

Recently we attended the final service at a local chapel which had been forced to close its doors because it is no longer sustainable with the small number of people attending on a Sunday. It was a good service, the chapel was full and the singing was excellent. We were pleased to take part in the service as we had fond memories of the place. We ourselves attended services there only spasmodically, but my wife`s father, a real chapel man, frequently went there on a Sunday during the short time he lived with us before his death. In fact his funeral service was held there.

I say we had fond memories of the place, mainly because over the years there had been a succession of very fine people associated with the chapel. We remember with particular fondness the minister who conducted my father-in-law`s burial service, and, before his time, a lovely lay preacher who radiated goodness and did much for the people in the village. And so we went along to the service to pay homage to their memory, if nothing else.

The service itself was well constructed, the prayers were good and some excellent memories of past members were recounted. There was, however, one thing that jarred-the hymns ! Nothing wrong with the tunes (indeed they were sung lustily) but oh dear, the words ! We were constantly drowning in Jesus` blood and wallowing in sin. It brought to mind that the religion of my youth, although I hadn`t realised it at the time, revolved around the three S`s:sin,sacrifice and salvation, and that was about it. Reward in heaven was the ultimate goal, and I thought to myself that, surely, religion must be more than this. The themes of the ultimate brotherhood of man (irrespective of another`a religion), community, the divine spark within us all (not just the saints !), a compassion and love, peace between nations, these were conspicuous by their absence in the hymns. It made me thankful that I had found Unitarianism in my later life and needed to look outward, not inward, if I was to find true satisfaction in religion.


  1. I do think that the obsession with sin in some churches can lead to self-righteousness and a constant finding of sin in others. Reminds me a little of Matthew 7, that of removing logs from your own eye before criticising the splinter in another's eye. That said, they're sound subjects to think on. Sin, after all, is doing what is displeasing to God. When we harm others, though lack of thought or an inconsiderate action, we sin.

    Jesus, I believe, shows us the way to live. Rather than taking our sins on himself, he showed us how to live without sin. Action, rather than faith alone, allows us to acknowledge and repent of our sins. Our salvation lies in following his example, rather than a "get out of hell free" card. Not that I believe in hell - though I do believe in the judgement of the soul. Jesus sacrificed a lot to live the way he did. Why should we think that we will not have to sacrifice to follow in his footsteps.

    I find the message of faith through action as a positive one in the Unitarian faith. That we can nurture that divine spark within us and help others. Maybe some of it will rub off ... eventually.

  2. Thanks Graham and Ian. I think you speak for many.I agree, faith also needs action. An individual`s life, no matter how elevated or humble,is judged in my opinion by what they do as well as say.We all suffer from those human frailties that can result in ignorance and malice, so in this respect I guess it could be said by some that we are all `sinful`.So I can understand the need for `confession and repentance`, but would argue the `life then led` is of much greater significance in any final analysis.

  3. I can't believe that Jesus died purposely to redeem all of our sins, thereby saving us from the fires of hell !
    When he entered Jerusalem and started to throw his weight about by overturning the tables of the money changers in the Temple, he was seen by the Jewish Rabbi as a threat to their cosy and decadent existence. They had him arrested for causing a breach of the peace, but the Roman Governor could find no fault with him
    and would have freed him but for the Rabbi who insisted that he was trying to start an insurrection against Rome.
    Poor chap ! - he didn't expect to be crucified !
    On the cross. Didn't he say "My God My God - why hast thou forsaken me ??" - hardly the words of someone who had planned his own death.
    Like Baxter and the Puritans, he was only trying to do God's work by putting the Rabbi back on the proper path.