"Most merciful God, we confess that we are by nature sinful and unclean. We have sinned against You in thought, word, and deed, by what we have done and by what we have left undone. We have not loved You with our whole heart; we have not loved our neighbors as ourselves. We justly deserve Your present and eternal punishment. For the sake of Your Son, Jesus Christ, have mercy on us. Forgive us, renew us, and lead us, so that we may delight in Your will and walk in Your ways to the glory of Your holy name. Amen."
How many of you recall this prayer? This is perhaps one of my favorite prayers - and a good go-to prayer when I know I have sinned and need to repent and ask for forgiveness. But, have you ever paid attention to the words? Have you ever picked this prayer apart and looked at it for what it is truly saying?
Part of the prayer came to my mind a few weeks ago when I was having a discussion with some friends... "have sinned against You in thought..." Are thoughts truly sinful? Is it truly a sin to only think about killing someone, or only think about having an affair with someone? It really bothered me that this could really be the case because I'm a writer... a writer who quite often writes smut. I write stories which are filled with lust. Some which are filled with wrath and murder. In fact, right before coming to this blog to write this post, I wrote a story on my Passion's Garden blog ("The Adviser") which is a smut story. (Well, to be honest, immediately before writing this post, I was taking a nice long bath. But, I figure you don't all want to know that.) So anyway, what I really wanted to know, is it a sin to write these stories?
To answer my questions, I did as I usually do - I turned to two almost-all-knowing sources... the internet, and a trusted friend of mine. The internet, as usual, was filled with a lot of jibberish I didn't feel like sifting through. The friend, on the other hand, was able to provide some assistance.
He referred me first to the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7). It is here when Jesus informs the people that even being angry at someone is a sin; even looking at someone lustfully is a sin. And then this friend went on to explain what sin means to him. In a very basic sense - sin is equivalent to selfishness and narcissism. Whenever our thoughts and actions are focused on ourselves - on our own desires - we sin. This is especially true when we do this at the expense of others. While this may seem to be a very simplified answer, if you think about it, it's a very true one. When your thoughts are concentrated on being angry or wanting to harm someone else, you're focusing on your own desire. When you actually physically hurt or kill this other person, you're focusing on your own desire. Both are sins. When you're focusing your thoughts on sex with someone, you're focusing on your own desire. When you actually have sex with that person, you're focusing on your own desire. Again, both are sins.
"Here's the danger in lustful thoughts. When we indulge our lustful thoughts toward an inappropriate source, this pulls us away from focusing our thoughts and commitment to the/an appropriate source."
While this response was in regards to lust, it can be applied to any sinful thought - placing the focus of our thoughts on these sinful things, we take away from where we should be placing our focus.
Of course, just to be a pain, I had to go for the rather childish question - if both thought and deed are equal sins in the eyes of the Lord, and the punishment is the same, why wouldn't we all just do the act rather than resort to only thinking about it? I think this is a fairly legitimate question. I recall feeling this way as a teenager... one night, I came home an hour past curfew. I was beat severely. A few weeks later, I was 5 minutes late. I was beat severely. After that, knowing the punishment was the same, if I knew I was going to be late anyway, or knew I would be in trouble anyway, I made it worth it. Why shouldn't we all be like this?
But, as was asked of me, what kind of world do you want to live in? Do you want to live in a world full of abuse and hurt? Or one in which people try to help each other and care for each other? This is why we don't take on the attitude of "well, if I'm going to sin, I might as well make it worth it." Or, at least, this should be why we don't take on that attitude. We should all be working towards a better life on earth - a heaven on earth. We should all be working on doing God's will and work.
Naturally we are not going to be able to stop every sinful deed. And we definitely will not be able to hold back every sinful thought. Almost everything we think and do is laced with a degree of selfishness (sin). It's what we do with those sinful thoughts that makes the difference. Do we pray to the Lord to help us be rid of the thought, or do we dwell on it, bringing forth details of the thought, and perhaps bringing that thought to life? Do we pray for the strength and ability to bring our focus back to where it should be? By disciplining ourselves to do this, we can help to minimize how often we allow our sinful thoughts to grow.
This is all well and good, and I do have to admit I have learned a lot in the past few weeks about sin and how to resist temptation, and how to avoid letting these thoughts grow and become actions.
Unfortunately, however, none of my friend's responses, or those that I was able to find on the internet, were able to answer the question of whether or not my stories are sinful. Am I sinning when I write a smut story? Is it a sin to write any of these tales, be it a story of lust, or wrath, or some mix of the two, or some other sin?
So, if anyone has any insight or opinions on this, I'd love to hear it.
Note: Very little of what is written on this post tonight is an original thought of mine. It all comes from a friend who knows a lot more about God/Religion than I do (although, I think I know more about sin..).
I owe a very heart-felt thank you to the trusted friend of mine. He's been an ever-present help in my desire to learn and grow in Jesus Christ, and I appreciate all the time he has taken to answer my never-ending questions.