While I have written a lot on the nature and the effects of sin, there's one part of it that I have said little about and that we hardly ever focus on as Christians.
And that is the damage done by "near sin" - or by doing things from the perspective of the world rather than of God. For much of what we do that harms us and harms others are things that are not quite sins, but are certainly not holy.
These things are typically Compromises with Integrity.
In other words, they are things that we would not think of mentioning in the confessional, but that are selfish and turned away from God all the same. They may not be sins per se, or if they are, they are the kind of sins that easily go undetected, slipping under the radar. And yet they often involve very big decisions and have tremendous impact on our lives.
For example ...
- You decide to marry someone, not because he or she would make a good spouse, but because of extraneous and ultimately selfish motives:
- worry about not finding anybody else to marry,
- marrying for economic or career motives,
- overlooking red flags such as alcoholism, laziness, or abusive behavior
- You cut corners in your business dealings. You do this to improve the bottom line, but in so doing, perhaps you
- provide shoddy service to your clients
- cheat your employees out of a living wage
- contribute to the atmosphere of dishonesty and mistrust in the marketplace.
- You spend a lot of extra time at work to make more money for your family, but meanwhile
- your daughter is left unsupervised and gets involved in seamy behavior online
- your wife, frustrated by having an absentee husband, turns to food or television or other soporifics to cope with her frustration
- you develop emotionally intimate relationships with coworkers of the opposite sex, since you're spending all your time with them away from home
... and so on.
This kind of thing is going on all the time, all around us, among devout Christians and nominal Christians both. And hardly anybody is talking about it.
These things may not clearly be sins, but they are sinful or at least selfish - and certainly they are unwise.