On Sin and Salvation
by Julia Ingram
Did any of you, like me, memorize this paragraph as a child? "Those who have done good will enter eternal life; those who have done evil will enter eternal fire. One cannot be saved without believing this firmly and faithfully."
One of my favorite topics is sin. Perhaps it is because as a youngster, I put a lot of effort into being good very good. Sin was very bad. Being a sinner might send me to the eternal fires of hell. What at times bordered on terrifying was that I felt that I little understood what it meant to have done good and at what point a sin became evil.
As an adult, I continue to grapple with my own definition of good and bad, right and wrong, and what it means to live a spiritual life. As a psychotherapist, I have seen that people struggle with overriding fear and guilt over not being good, or at least not good enough. I would say that the bases for much of the depression and anxiety that I have treated over the years are self-hatred and fear of authority, both of these, at their very hearts, spiritual issues associated with the religious concepts of sin and salvation.
Have we always been afraid of God? Have we always clung to rules that tell us how to live in order to avoid the punishment we fear will be inflicted on us if we mess up? Are we, as some religions teach, born in sin? And what is sin anyway? Who decides? Many people think that to sin is to break one of God's rules. But which God, and which set of rules? I wondered what one of our most compassionate teachers, Jesus, felt about sin.
During the last ten years of my 29-year career as a therapist, I have worked with several hundred people using the powerful tool of past-life regression. Several dozen of these clients have reported detailed lifetimes during the time of Christ, and many of these remembered intimate relationships with him. It is as if I have been permitted to travel back in time to get some of my questions answered.
The questions about sin and salvation that had bothered me for so long came up in a regression session with a mystical woman from Calgary who told me she was Ruth, the little sister of Jesus (or Jeshua [the Aramaic pronunciation of his name], as she called him).
During this past-life regression session, Ruth was remembering what it was like after Jeshua had been crucified and his family and followers were trying to decide how to proceed. The women were upset at the factions that were developing, each claiming they were Jesus' true spokesmen. Ruth was specifically expressing anger toward her older brother, James. The following is an excerpt from that session.
Ruth: James is taking Jeshua's words and turning them around. He is making it seem like you have to follow him. He is changing things to get people to pay him money. He is not the only one. Others are following him. (She begins to cry.)
James is not treating mother with respect. He won't listen to her. He's almost possessed. I don't know why he is doing this. He was jealous. He'd mocked Jeshua and his mission before. One of the uncles is in partnership with James, one of father's brothers. They are scheming.
Julia: How do James and the others demand money?
Ruth: They say it is a sin not to give up their money.
Julia: That brings up a topic of great interest to me. What did Jeshua consider a sin?
Ruth: (She appears offended) Jeshua didn't teach "sin." If an apostle told you he did, then he was trying to control people. When Jeshua would talk to people about, say, being so attached to their money that they wouldn't help a family member, he didn't say it was a sin. He would have them look at what was going on, not judging it as good or bad. He'd tell a story that would help people face their fear of being poor. He got them to see their fear. He talked against fear.
Julia: You know, Ruth. It never made sense to me that Jeshua would teach us to not judge, to be compassionate, to see the God within, and at the same time teach that we are sinners. Thank you for clearing up that huge piece of misunderstanding. I'm sorry to tell you that in my time , many people believe that the reason Jeshua died was to save them from their own sins.
Ruth: Jeshua was murdered. (She is upset.) He lived for us; he didn't die for us. He was killed before the work was firmly anchored.
Julia: Yes, I have heard several of you say the same thing. I'm assuming, then, that salvation is also not understood in our [present] time?
Ruth: Salvation? We don't have to save ourselves from anything.
Julia: Many believe that to be saved means to enter the Kingdom of God.
Ruth: Where is the Kingdom? Jeshua taught that you go to yourself. When you love every part of yourself, even that which you may call bad, that is the Kingdom of God. To love yourself is to love God. When you are more loving of self, you are more loving and compassionate to others. When you honor the God within, you naturally honor the God that is in everything.
Ruth explained that sin is not to be seen as committing a bad act for which there must be punishment, but rather any thought or action that separates us from our own Godself. Ruth said that Jeshua was attempting to help us understand that when we feel separation from God, we can look for the fear behind the driving force and, with compassion, take steps to change the situation and learn from it.
A surprising source of support for this belief came to me recently when a friend loaned me a book called The Enneagram: A Journey of Self-Discovery (by Maria Beesing, Robert J. Nogosek, and Patrick H. O'Leary), on the ancient Sufi system of understanding personality types. In introducing the concept of driving forces in personal behavior, they wrote that "...compulsion is a kind of 'hidden sin,' where sin is understood as a kind of paralysis or hindrance in becoming one's true, authentic self."
Once we take the concept of sin out of the realm of black-and-white thinking or of judging something as good or bad and see it for what it was intended, as an admonition to be true to ones self, true to the indwelling God, we can, with self-compassion, make the corrective changes necessary in our lives without fear or self-loathing.
Julia Ingram is a lecturer and workshop facilitator and co-author of the bestseller, The Messengers. She will be in the Northwest in July and August giving lectures from her forthcoming book, The Visionaries: The Lost Sisterhood of Christ and about Mary Magdalene and leading experiential workshops. For a schedule of her talks and workshops, see her ad in this paper.