Faith/Spirituality Forum: Sinful actions ?

Sinful actions ? QUESTION from Steven Jarvis September 30, 2001 During a recent conversation with a friend of mine (who happens to be a protestant, though familiar with Catholicism, having taught for a number of yars in a Catholic school), we discussed the topic of Christ's humanity, and the following interesting point arose.
I pointed out that Our Lord was a man like us, but without sin. To which my friend responded Well then, He must have been a very peculiar child! He then gave the example of the events in Luke 2:41ff, when the boy Jesus was lost for three days, and eventually turned up in the temple, debating with the elders. Presumably, when the caravan had left Jerusalem, someone would have checked that Jesus was there, and so He presumably later slipped off to go back to the temple; the worry and inconvenience this caused Our Lady and St. Joseph is documented.
Our Lord justifies His actions on the grounds of obedience to his natural Father, God, but there is nonetheless the implication of a great lack of charity on the part of a 12 year-old boy, who would be presumed to have the use of reason. Also, one might expect that Jesus was punished by his earthly parents as a result.
Since my friend and I are both teachers, an analogy was drawn with a child who might sign in as present in school, and later truant in order to do something he regards as more important, for example, to attend a sick parent. In this case, the child would usually still be punished, or at least reprimanded: the crime being perhaps not so much the truancy, as the failure to inform the school of his whereabouts and reason for wanting to go home, and the consequential inconvenience to the school in tracking him down.
I have subsequently reflected on this conversation, and there are several issues arising from it about which I would be interested in having your thoughts:-
1. Is there any sin involved if one does something which one believes to be right, even when it results in suffering and distress for someone else? What about an impetuous action, where the consequential suffering might have been avoided if one had been more careful, thoughtful or charitable?
2. Is naughtiness in a child (which implies some measure of deliberate responsibility) more excusable than poor behaviour in an adult?
3. Is it right to punish a child for an offence committed that could have been avoided with more thought, in order that they might learn that such behaviour is unacceptable, and to think more carefully in future (for example, a child who swears at a teacher, or hits another child, or breaks something in a fit of temper)?
4. If one is punished for the consequences of doing something which one believes to be right, what should one's response be?
5. (This is perhaps more one for the scriptural theologians, but I would be interested in your views) Returning to the orighinal conversation about the childhood of Christ, do you think that Our Lord was sometimes punished or corrected as a child: wouldn't this be necessary in order to experience the fullness of the human condition? Would Our Lady and St. Joseph have been justified in administering such punishment or correction?
Thank you in anticipation of your reply, and also thank you for a most beautiful and helpful website.
Yours in Christ. Steven
ANSWER by John-Paul Ignatius, OLSM on October 10, 2001 Dear Mr. Jarvis:
Well, first off, you friend has apparently NOT read the Bible passage in question and thus has made a erroneous presumption. All the subsequent discussion is void because it is based upon this false presumption.
Luke 2:43-45 says: 43 and when the feast was ended, as they were returning, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem. His parents did not know it, 44 but supposing him to be in the company they went a day's journey, and they sought him among their kinsfolk and acquaintances; 45 and when they did not find him, they returned to Jerusalem, seeking him.
Jesus STAYED BEHIND, he was NEVER in the caravan and NO ONE noticed this until for an entire day. Thus the whole conversation about a boy sneaking out is moot.
Why no one noticed him missing is because the Jewish custom when on pilgrimage to Jerusalem was to travel in two groups -- one of men, and the other of women. The children could travel with either group thus making it easy for the men to think the child was with the women and the women to think the child was with the men.
The reply of Jesus was an explanation. He was to be about going his Father's (Heavenly Father's) work and thus such a long search should not have been necessary, but moreso, Jesus response was to remind his earthly parents of who he was and the God's Salvation Plan had to be played out above the concerns of family.
Jesus did nothing wrong and there would have been no purpose or reason to punish him. The Scriptures certainly do not indicate such a thing and we should not presume more than what is in the text.
As for your listed questions:
You ask: 1. Is there any sin involved if one does something which one believes to be right, even when it results in suffering and distress for someone else? What about an impetuous action, where the consequential suffering might have been avoided if one had been more careful, thoughtful or charitable?
ANSWER: If we are following God's will we will often be required to do something that may cause, at least in the eyes of the other person, suffering and distress. When I was involved in doing work to rid America of pornography my life was threatened by organized crime. I am sure that cause my mother suffering and distress to think of her son's life in mortal danger. But what I was doing had to be done, it was what was right to do, it was what God called me to do. You ask: 2. Is naughtiness in a child (which implies some measure of deliberate responsibility) more excusable than poor behaviour in an adult?
ANSWER: Yes, the child does not have the maturity or experience to make sound judgments. That is part of the definition of a child. An adult, presumably, has the maturity and experience to make prudent judgments. You ask: 3. Is it right to punish a child for an offence committed that could have been avoided with more thought, in order that they might learn that such behaviour is unacceptable, and to think more carefully in future (for example, a child who swears at a teacher, or hits another child, or breaks something in a fit of temper)?
ANSWER: Yes, of course. The Bible tells us to teach a child in the way that he should go and when he grow old he shall not depart. Part of teaching a child is disciple (which means to teach). Children must know what the boundaries are, what sin is, and what the right thing is. This is done differently according to the stage of life the child is in. Trying to reason with a 4 year old is spitting in the wind. A 4 year old's brain has not developed to the point that trying to explain rationally why something is wrong or right will sink in. A 4 year old will require more corporal discipline. A 12 year old however may benefit from a rational discussion. You ask: 4. If one is punished for the consequences of doing something which one believes to be right, what should one's response be?
ANSWER: Accept it graciously. You ask: 5. (This is perhaps more one for the scriptural theologians, but I would be interested in your views) Returning to the original conversation about the childhood of Christ, do you think that Our Lord was sometimes punished or corrected as a child: wouldn't this be necessary in order to experience the fullness of the human condition? Would Our Lady and St. Joseph have been justified in administering such punishment or correction?
ANSWER: The Blessed Mother and St. Joseph were Jesus earthly parents. They had a solemn responsibility to discipline their child. Of course, Jesus was corrected as a child. He experienced ALL that we experience except sin (and earthly marriage). Remember just because a child has done something that needs corrected does NOT mean that the child has sinned.
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