Torrey Conference Workshop: With God in “Harmless” Sins

Torrey Conference workshops invite students to humble themselves before God and others.



Mike Ahn, assistant director of chapel programs, led a workshop titled, “With God in “Harmless” Sins.” | Tomber Su/THE CHIMES

Katie Nelson, Writer

I went in to this workshop not knowing what I was getting myself into. The Torrey Conference booklet and iPhone app were intentionally vague about the subject matter, merely hinting that the speaker, Mike Ahn, would be “discussing one of these ‘harmless’ sins in depth.” I expected it to be a shock-jock way of ushering in a talk about pornography or some other edgy topic.

Apparently, the audience’s expectations were similar to my own, because the session was packed. Crammed into the corner of Crowell Hall, I shivered with anticipation. Then Mike stood up to speak and we all fell silent.

The way he opened the session nears the top of my personal list of weirdest ways anyone has ever begun a session, second only to the time Todd Pickett cartwheeled across the stage. Mike led us in a rendition of the classic Sesame Street game, “One of These Things is Not Like the Other.” We did this with shapes, colors and even prime numbers. Lastly, he showed us four words and asked us to pick the outlier: murder, idol worship, sexual immorality and envy.

His message was clear: When we consider which sins are the worst, we often omit envy. In reality, envy is at the root of a lot of wrongs we commit. And this poisonous disease is not limited to consumerism or lusting after others’ wealth (and Klout scores!), but it can also seep into our spiritual lives, as well.

“Spiritual envy latches on to good intentions, rotting [them] from the inside out,” Mike said. He asked us to consider what we value and how we have seen envy latch on to it.

In my own life, I find myself becoming envious of people I see as competitors, especially those whom I work with. I even do this to my own roommate because we share a major and a job title. Envy causes us to project our ugly insecurities on people we love and value. These people then suffer the collateral damage that results when we allow envy to consume us.

The last thing Mike talked about was an especially hard pill for me to swallow. He told us that confessing things like stress or anxiety makes us appear important to others, while confessing envy make us appear weak. This hit me in the gut, because I am absolutely guilty of extrapolating my work-related “problems” to win admiration from my peers, as I am sure many of us are.

It is not enjoyable to feel humbled by a speaker — it can feel like he or she has cut you open at the core and can see the sins you secretly delight in. But I’ve come to believe God causes us to feel shamed by others’ soul-splitting words so that we might come to repentance. If nothing else, this workshop brought me to do exactly what Mike told us we must to overcome envy: confess it to the one who sustains us.

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