Holy Week: Yukine and Matters of the Heart

As a Christian, I’ve found that one of the hardest things to explain to non-Christians is about the seriousness of sin.  Without comprehending this, the gospel story makes little sense and thus there’s little to compel one to be open to the religion.  One of the roadblocks in trying to help others understand the gravity of sin is that we’ve grown up with varied definitions of the phrase, and it’s become perhaps defined best in our culture as “doing something bad,” rather than as rebelling against God.  Add to that other cultures’ and religions’ uses of the word, as expressed in Noragami and other anime, and it becomes a word that’s loaded with meaning that isn’t necessarily Christian, and becomes a confusing path to explore.

Another roadblock is in understanding that sin doesn’t have to be something we physically commit.  This comes into play with Yukine and Yato in Noragami.  Even though Yato warns his shinki that even when Yukine simply thinks sinful thoughts, Yato suffers, Yukine continues to do so.  Perhaps he just wants to cause Yato displeasure – no surprise for an adolescent with a holder as annoying as Yato.  Or maybe Yukine just can’t accept the fact that he could sin by simply coveting.  After all, Yukine resists stealing items on a couple of occasions, as if trying to stop himself from crossing that boundary.  Moving from thinking to doing is, apparently to Yukine, the bridge between sin and not.

For Yato, there is no difference.  Coveting and giving into mindful temptation is the same as physically giving in – they both cause Yato harm in the form of a blight that eventually consumes most of the kami’s body, particularly taking over once Yukine indulges completely in sinful desire.  And so, not only is thinking sinfully considered a sin, but it becomes a root desire that helps beget the physical detrimental actions.

Yukine Noragami
Art by 謖 (Pixiv ID 41940946)

These ideas are very much in line with Christianity.  From the Old Testament, the Bible makes it clear that God is concerned with our heart and mind, even above physical actions:

But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”

– I Samuel 16:7

Further, Jesus later makes it clear that our thoughts and intentions matter when it comes to sinning:

You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘You shall not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to a brother or sister, ‘Raca,’ is answerable to the court. And anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell.

– Matthew 5:21-22

Although God won’t become blighted and approach death, as Yato did (although there’s some comparison to be made to Christ here), I do believe that our sin grieves God.  Sin is not only despicable to Him, but it’s something that pains God to see us commit, as it would any good father who sees his child in harm.  For sin leads to death.

We aren’t so fortunate to be able to usually see the results of sin with our eyes, but media like Noragami  allows us to see a little bit of what our sin incurs looks like to God and how serious it can be.

9 thoughts on “Holy Week: Yukine and Matters of the Heart

  1. I think an interesting parallel that the series had was that it was difficult for Yukine to grasp the idea of sin until it was so dramatically shown to him. It’s like when people go around telling atheists not to sin. Why would they care? Why SHOULD they care? They are questions to address first before the more abstract “you just don’t do it,” arguments that failed to persuade Yukine.

    1. Thanks for the comment – you’re taking this idea further to a really important place that I think it needs to go. Unfortunately, most of us, even Christians (particularly Christians?), have a problem with empathy. We may spout what we know of scripture and give those words with a loving heart, but if we can’t put ourselves in the shoes of a person who doesn’t believe, we’ve already lost. We may need to think more on Paul and his strategy of being everything to everyone.

  2. It certainly is important to remember that thoughts lead to deeds. If I remember rightly, Catholic theology divides thoughts three ways: the idea of the act, delight in the act, and consent to do the act. When it comes to sinful thoughts, rejecting the idea of the sin outright is meritorious, while taking delight in the act or consenting to do the act is sinful.

    In Yukine’s case, the amount of resentment which builds up in him because he cannot act on his desires is remarkable. In particular, his sinful thoughts prevent him from being grateful for the things he can have, like having Hiyori and other spirits as a friends, the gifts he gains from these same people, or being an awesome sword spirit. (I loved the design of Yato’s katana.) I wonder how many sins have a lack of gratitude as their impetus?

    1. As always, thank you for your comments. Your knowledge always adds a depth to the conversation which I just can’t add. 🙂

  3. Yeah, but this actually begs an interesting question—- What if the opposite thing happens, like C.S. Lewis’ Calormen who lived a life of nobility in the name of “Satan?” Anyone versed in Christian theology can tell you that it’s not good works but Jesus who saves the soul….So why is it “bad works” and “bad thoughts” that damn human beings?

    That doesn’t seem like it works as a definition of “sin” at all. “Sin” must be a condition of existence which leads to wrong thoughts/wrong actions instead. Hence how you can do it without technically doing anything. Without that, a lot of things that humans do (Doing selfless things in the name of the Devil, worshipping false gods with faith and devotion, et cetera) don’t really come together.

    Less “sins” and more “Sin?”

    1. Thanks for taking the post in this direction. I think it’s certainly helpful, and important, to think of “Sin” as opposed to “sins” – our sinful condition, our proclivity toward worshiping ourselves and other things above God, and the human need for One who can do all that we cannot by ourselves.

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