By: Richard Rohr
It would be absurd to suggest that someone go into a room she is already in! —Teresa of Ávila (1515-1582) [1]

“Sin” primarily describes a state of living outside of union, when the part poses as the Whole. It’s the loss of any experience of who you are in God, of what many call your soul. That “who” is nothing you can earn or obtain; that room is nothing you can build. Why? Because you already live within it, as St. Teresa says.

The full biblical revelation is about awakening, not accomplishing. In this it is quite similar to ancient Hinduism and later Buddhism and Sufi Islam. The spiritual journey is about realization, not perfection. You cannot get there, you can only be there. But for some reason, that foundational Being-in-God is too hard to believe, too good to be true. Only the humble can receive it because it affirms more about God than it does about us. The ego does not like that.

The ego makes life all about achievement and attainment. As long as your egoic self acts as your primary guide, religion becomes a worthiness contest in which everybody loses or gives up. Many, if not most people, never even try the spiritual journey when they see that they can’t live up to today’s culturally created performance principles. I see this especially in the males of the human species. Rather than lose, they do not try at all.

Yet union with God is really about awareness and realignment. It is a Copernican revolution of the mind and heart—conversion. (Sixteenth-century Copernicus made the shocking claim that the Earth revolves around the sun, not vice-versa!) Following conversion, that deep and wondrous inner knowing, a whole new set of behaviors and lifestyle will surely emerge. It is not that if I am moral, then I will be loved by God; rather, I must first come to experience God’s love, and then I will—almost naturally—be moral. To continue the Copernican metaphor, now the sun is central and we draw our energy from its light.

Before conversion, we view sin as any kind of moral mistake; afterward, sin is a mistake about who you are and whose you are. In that sense, only the false self can and will sin. The false self only lies because it somehow is a lie. The True Self is consciousness itself. The false self lives in unconsciousness, and we do evil only when we are unconscious. Jesus naturally forgave those who were killing him, because they literally “do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34). Most people are not sinners; they are just ignorant.

 

Gateway to Silence:
I am hidden in the love and mercy of God.