sin eater

I recently found out about an ancient custom that originated in Europe and even made its way to America and was practiced for many years on the mountains of Apalachia.

When a person died, in order to be relieved of the sins they had accumlulated throughout their life time they would hire someone to be their sin eater. That person would ceremonially eat and drink food and beverage passed to them over the dead body. Thereby taking upon themselves the sin of the other person. The person who did the sinning would be considered innocent as they passed into eternity and the "sineater" would bear the burden. The obvious problem being the sin still existed it was just passed to another soul. Eventually someone would have to pay for it..eventually the sineater dies too.

I was reading Leviticus and came accross a somewhat similar custom. This custom however was commanded by God to symbolize sacrifice and atonement. Aaron, Moses' brother was commanded to pick two goats. One would be given to the Lord as an offering. The other would be the "scapegoat" and would be sent into the desert to atone for the sins the "wickedness and rebellion fo the Isrealites- all their sins".
"The goat will carry on itself all their sins to a solitary place" I would venture to suggest that this was foreshadowing and symbolic of the messiah. This is where the term "scapegoat" originated.

We use the term "scapegoat" today to refer to a person who is made to take the blame, the fall, the consequences and essentially the sin of another onto themself. If the consequences or shame of our own sin is too great we pass it onto another person and let them carry the burden and blame. It sounds strange but how often do we pass blame in our own marraiges, in our families, in our churches or in our workplaces. Thought provoking...

Why do we feel , as believers, that we need to hide our sin or find a scapegoat when we fail? Hasn't Christ provided all we need?

I would define sin as any mindset, thought , attitude or action that stubbornly insists on, and claims my right to myself. Anything that pushes God off of his throne and attempts to put myself there. We tend to think of sin as specific actions. Sin can be subtle attitudes and priorities as well. Actions can be sinful but it is also state of being. We all inherit a nature of sin.

No struggling, New Years resolutions or striving will enable you to stop doing some things and the natural penalty of sin is that we gradually grow used to it, justify it, and eventually don't know that it is sin. It's a slow fade. Nothing except the power of the Holy Spirit can alter the inherent consequence of sin. It is not only God who punishes for sin but sin itself gives back full pay. It lures, entraps and ensnares. I think the most dangerous kind of sin is the kind that we don't recognize and have become desensitized too.

There are many ways people try to absolve themself of sin without having to really face it, repent of it and lay it down at the feet of Jesus. We still find scapegoats. Someone who we can manipulate, blame , attach our guilt to ....and send into the desert alone. Anything to keep us from having to face it ourselves.
Unless a sin is dealt with, forgiven and atoned for it will linger on.

The effects and natural consequences affect generation after generation.
The sins of the father will reach in one way or another his grandchildren, his great grandchildren and so on. Unless God and his healing are allowed to intervene. I chose the word "allowed" because we are given the choice to stand in the way of that freedom and remain in our chains. After all ,we have our own ways to deal with sin and a guilty conscience.

We can heap shame upon our own shoulders. We can feel guilty. We can linger in depression and sadness.....but nothing changes. We can punish ourselves, lash our own backs and try to do "good" in an attempt to outweight the "bad"...but its still there. Nothing changes. The chains are still firmly attached. We can justify and find excuses for our behavior but the effects of sin are still rippling through the lives of those we love.

In a letter written by Paul to Titus, recorded in the New Testement of the Bible it says.

"At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived, and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another. But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing and rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life."

Titus 3:5

"For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Jesus Christ." Romans 3:23

Pride is a very dangerous pitfall because in that state we are unaware of our own need of grace. When a person trully sees himself in light of a Holy God, it is not the hiddeous sins of the flesh that shock him but the nature of pride in his own heart against Jesus Christ.

True repentance and forgiveness requires going backward. Acknowledging what it is we need forgiveness from. It is feeling the weight of the chains, the realization of our desperate need for grace and forgiveness...from God (and from those we have hurt). Only then can we release it to the only perfect atoning sacrifice ever provided.

****On a bit of a side note I think sometimes believers ,who have been freed and saved ,make a mockery of that grace by harbouring , nurturing or refusing to acknowledge sin. We have our 'get to heaven free card' and think we can fill our lives with as much garbage as we want. One of the problems with that attitude is that hidden sin will stand in the way of everything God desires to do in our life. It stands directly between us and God. It will destroy the peace, joy, contentment and freedom that are available to believers. Like an untreated malignancy bitterness, unforgiveness, guilt, shame, sin of the flesh and pride will destroy our both our bodies and our spirits . ****

We don't need to live like that.

"But God demonstrated his love for us in this; while we were still sinners, Christ died for us"

Romans 5:8

It is because of Jesus blood and God's grace that we are saved out of the snares that entangle.

We are made just, even when we we are not just.

We are made holy, when we are so far from perfection.

We are made to be without blemish

we are made pure

we are made innocent.....

even though we are none of those things.

We are covered by His Holiness, His pureness, His righeousness.

"He is the Lord our righteousness."

" Through him everyone who believes is justified from everything you could not be justified from by the law of Moses" Acts 13:39

God's plan to redeem humanity was two fold. The law and grace. Law is the mirror and grace is the scrub brush. The law is something written on our hearts ( better known as the "10 commandments"). We are not made clean by the law only aware of our own dirtiness.

It is by HIS grace and sacrifice that we are washed clean.

NOT because we are good at covering our tracks, or a professional at denial, or good at punishing ourselves. God sees through those things. There are no closed closets with God but we can choose to keep them dirty. The choice is ours.

Will we need to hire a sin eater when we die? Cross our fingers and hope for the best?..... Or will we die knowing with assurance we can go before Holy God covered and cleansed. Redeemed and rescued by a loving God.


Linda said...

Carla...this was a great post!

I loved it!
Preach it sister!!!!


Linda @ Truthful Tidbits

Jobina said...

Carla, have you ever read The Last Sin Eater by Francine Rivers? A wonderful book of redemption...I'd never even heard of a Sin Eater before I read that. Thank goodness we have no need of a person to do that for us!