The church is “obsessed” with abortion, homosexuality and birth control.
That comment by Pope Francis a few days ago made global headlines. It’s no mistake that all three bugbears are physical, of the body, sexual.
Little-mind religion seizes on the carnal sins and makes avoiding them a cardinal virtue. That’s because it is mostly preoccupied with purity codes (especially where bodily temptations are concerned), and achievement systems where I can tote up the “good” I have done and feel superior to “sinners” who have not abstained as well as I have.
Jesus was not much worried about carnal sin. He was sharply rebuked for fraternizing with “sinners and tax collectors,” drunks and publicans and prostitutes (Mark 2:16). He warned people not to becomes “slaves of sin” (John 8:34) because it is clearly destructive, for ourselves and for others, and because it clouds our inner vision, blinding us to the ever-present reality of God within us. But, in Francis’ terms, he wasn’t “obsessed” with carnal sin.
Jesus understood that our sins are inevitable, necessary and important to our salvation. If we can allow our faults and failures to break down our pride and arrogance, blow up our perfect little DIY salvation project, our sins can actually flip us into salvation. (Hence Luther’s dictum: “Sin boldly.”)
This is why Jesus was a friend of sinners. It’s also why he scorched the self-righteous and fought bitterly with the most highly religious people of his day.
Want to be a friend of Jesus? Be an awake and aware sinner.