“Sin changes things.” It was a simple statement from the pastor, from the pulpit, on an ordinary summer Sunday. And a profound truth rests just below the surface of the words. “Sin” is a conscious choice, a free decision, and always an option. But like the stone’s ripple through the water, there is an effect, a response, a reaction. All human interaction with one another and with the environment reflects this. Even the scandals and abuses within the church evidence it. But perhaps the opposite is equally true: Doing the right thing changes things.
There are ripple effects to every act of goodness, demonstration of kindness, that exists. It could be that baby who wins the hearts of bystanders on a grocery line or the student who steps aside for an elederly staff member. It might be offering a seat on a bus or engaging in conversation. It might be something bigger: assisting someone with tuition or becoming a primary care giver for a relative. There is a certian joy to the moment, to the complicity of goodness, and to the flashes of mutual understanding of kindness. There are smiles and that all-too-elusive sense of gratitude and appreciation.
The ripple effects of sin are equally tangible. The smallest theft, the angry cursing words, the lies that are told to cover up actions or intent….all that has an impact on a day, and a life. There are the greater sins, too, the ones categorized as crimes and seen as heinous by all society. Those sins of word, of heart, of action, catapault into even more difficut scenarios. Oddly, the individual rests at the controls in each instance. And choosing the right thing becomes more complicated, options clouded by the past and obscured by gratification and momentum. It leaves the odd aftertaste of wondering what if….
To live in a world defined by hope and promise is to be working on becoming a better person, realizing personal weaknesses and deficits and literally choosing to work with those. It also means forgiving others for those weaknesses and deficits and still choosing to move forward. It is neither naiveté nor ignorance to forgive; it is with full knowledge and clear purpose that it finds meaning. And therein lies the dual challenge of really living. It seems to happen naturally for children, but becomes mysteriously elusive for adults grappling with the complications and ethics of lived experiences, the accumulation of learned reality.
The contemporary environment offer incredible challenges on every front. History will dance with the genuine characters who populate the political and social stages. But far beneath that level of digital record will be the lives of the ordinary people, the ones who choose each day to try to make a positive difference. FaceBook and digital media will track it, but doing the right thing rarely characterizes the dominant narrative. And still, it truly matters.
Because every tossed stone makes a ripple. And the power of choice is there….resting within and awaiting implementation.