skin and sin

I found a suspicious thingie on my skin and went to the dermatologist, who decided it absolutely had to be removed because my insurance company would pay for it.

(It’s totally benign. The pamphlet I was given pretty much stated it had to be benign. But payment was forthcoming, so off it came.)

The dermatologist took out a spray can of liquid nitrogen and sprayed the spot, and that was the end of the treatment. She told me that it would form a scab, and when the scab came off, the thingie would be gone too.

Since I’m not in the habit of TMI on this weblog and since it’s not going to kill me, you’re wondering why I bothered telling you, and it’s because I had a Thought.

A long time ago, I came up with what I call “core theory.” The idea is that an action or a decision changes you only inasmuch as it penetrates to the core of you. So, for example, cutting someone off in traffic might not penetrate very deeply into your core, but driving recklessly would bespeak a casualness about others’ lives that would penetrate deeply. Grabbing an extra napkin at Wendy’s wouldn’t go to the core of you, but stealing from a neighbor would.

Evangalicals claim that Catholics get all strange about sin by diving them into “venial” and “mortal,” but the Bible does distinguish between sin that kills the soul and sin that just makes it filthy. Of course all sin is offensive before God, but it’s understood that not all sin is of the same calibre. Killing a bug isn’t the same as killing your brother.

By the same token, virtues can either be on the surface or go all the way to your core. That’s why a widow giving two copper coins was singled out by Jesus as giving “everything she had” whereas the rich giving much more weren’t recognized. Gifts given from the heart mean more than gifts given thoughtlessly.

The dermatologist explained to me about this skin thingie, how it didn’t go deep in my skin and therefore could just get frozen off. Another thingie apparently went deeper, and that needed to be cut out; I needed to be numbed for that. In fact, it seems that dermatologists classify skin thingies in part by how deep they go.¬†

Eventually the scab did come off: I hadn’t thought to look at the thing in a few days, and when I did, it just fell off, and the skin beneath was pink and smooth. I really thought, looking at it, if only the sins came off my soul the same way.

And maybe they do: maybe the ones that don’t penetrate to the core, the venial or non-killing kinds of sins, do come off that easily in the light of God, the blood of the Lamb. Maybe once we see what’s really worthwhile, we let go of those things as easily as a scab we don’t need any longer, and what’s left beneath is new and pink and healthy.

The challenge, therefore, is to keep the bad stuff confined to the surface, and let the good stuff go all the way to your core.


  1. Anonymous

    That’s a really nice analogy! I like it!