I’ve watched and listened to Christians as they talk and blog about sin and I am constantly amazed how badly we understand it. (I could be wrong of course 🙂 ) We have the Calvinist theology that clearly states that sin has affected all of man and of course woman. They say we are completely sinful and cannot do any good. If we do good, it is God that causes us to do good. I do not really believe this view because we have free will. (And yes I’ve read all the arguments on free will, but for me free will means to choose …. freely without interference….. something God seems to value.) In anyway, back to the Calvinist view of sin. There are a lot of verses that seem to back this view. “Slaves to sin” in Romans 6:20, “all committed sin and therefore stand guilty before God, deserving of death” in Romans 6:23, “there are none righteous, no, not one” in Romans 3:10. Looking at these verses it seems like we need a Saviour and we would be correct. We are indeed sinners. We need Jesus. Of course Calvinism takes the extreme route and state that we are utterly incapable of believing in, obeying, or pleasing God. Something that must baffle David because God choose him because he was “a man after His own heart”. (This was before Jesus.) There are other Old Testament examples as well of God being “well pleased”.
So, what is sin and the results of sin? It is here where we get a little vague. We can point to the obvious sins of commandment 6 – 10. Killing, adultery, stealing, false witnessing and coveting. (Coveting…. how difficult is THAT one?…or is it only me?) We can further point to specific sins like those in the picture below.
The seven deadly sins, identified a long time ago that were considered deadly for the Christian life. It seems they are just as deadly today, but are probably tolerated a little more today than in 590 AD. Who talks about sin any more? (Yes, you do Calvinists – Thank you) Some say sin is a 180 degree turn away from God. Repenting is the turning back. Sounds good, but even when we turn back, we continue to feel the effects of sin and we sin.
Why is that? I believe sin had three consequences.
One – it took us away from God’s presence and we long to get back. That is where religion comes from – man’s attempt to get back to God.
Two – we became the centre of living. All we do is motivated to promote the self. Follow the rules… for self protection. Break the rules… for self expression. Any of the following sound familiar? Self-belief, self-confidence, self-help, self-doubt, self-esteem, self-acceptance, self-value, Self-efficacy, self-concept, self-image, self-defence, self-employed, self-inflicted, self-respect, self-analysis. Why don’t we take a selfie? You must love yourself. Accept yourself as you are. All good advice. All to promote the self. This is so deeply ingrained in us that Jesus told us to love our neighbours as we love ourselves. The highest form of love we can express is to love others as we love ourselves, mostly because we are very good at loving ourselves. Ever heard of Karma?… do good things…. why?…so that good things will return to you… What is the Christian version again? Cast thy bread upon the waters…
Three and this is where I believe Calvinism falls short – sin inhabits the outcome and consequences of our actions. What do I mean by this? Our correct believing, good intentions and actions do not guarantee the expected outcome. Perhaps an example… Let’s say I have money, but do not want my kids to grow up as spoilt brats. They have to work for an allowance. They might perceive me as being ungenerous and begin to resent me. My intentions are pure, but the consequences turn out different to what I expected. Everything we believe and touch have this problem of decay. This means you can confess Sola Scriptura and TULIP and drive people away from God. Right confession seldom produce Godly love. You can proclaim freedom for the captives and then be very surprised when they start to act the same as the abuser. Of course their intentions will pure because they only want to free others. I see this in a lot of Christians coming out of distressing circumstances or abusive congregations. They hit back.
How can we counter these three consequences of sin? The answer of course lies with Jesus.
One – Jesus is the end of all religion. We cannot come to God by effort. We have to die, not just our bad habits but also the good we do. We will not see what Jesus did as long as we rely and depend on our ability to do the right thing and do good. The sad part is that we fight against our “bad” nature and rely on the good we can do to promote God’s kingdom. This relying on our abilities also have to die. Jesus came to raise the dead, not only the bad. If you do not understand, read here…
Two – It lies somewhere in John 3:30. “He must increase, but I must decrease.” This directly impacts the self. What did Jesus say? John 15:5 “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in Me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from Me you can do nothing. When we die(one), we get implanted into Him. There is now another source out of which we can live. The self is not the only source any more. His love will begin to flow through us. What did He tell His disciples? You must love one another AS I HAVE LOVED YOU. See the shift from loving your neighbours as you love yourself? Jesus did not just come to restore relationship with God, but also established a new way of living. “AS I HAVE LOVED YOU” is not merely words. It shows a Love that goes far beyond our ability. His died for those that rejected, betrayed and crucified Him. Do we have a love like that? He loves the lost. He does the illogical thing and leaves the 99 for the stray one. Do we understand why? He throws a party when the prodigal who wasted his inheritance and dragged the family name through the mud, comes home. Is the party not more waste? Who does that? What does His love looks like? 1 Corinthians 13 provides some answers. It seems His love forgives 70 times 7. It seems like His love can be relentless and does not condemn. It does not change. Read here… He came as a servant and served. We can only experience some of His love when we become servants and serve single moms and dads, orphans, the elderly in old age homes, the homeless, those in jail, the least of these, etc. Do we believe this? Ever heard what Jesus said about the sheep and the goats? Who were allowed to enter heaven… those who believed the right things or those who served? “AS I HAVE LOVED YOU” is God’s healing for a broken world, but we will only see and experience it when we serve one another. Servant-hood is not optional for Christians. AND I’m talking about serving people in a one to one ratio. Where you have to look in each other’s eyes. Human contact. Where hands, arms and feet serve. Serving a group does not count.
Three – We have to recognise our shortcomings, limitations and our tendency to stray. We have to understand that we have a limited capacity for understanding of our Father. He constantly amazes and does not follow a set of rules when dealing with us. He is the ultimate Mystery and we will never grasp Him on this side of life. We cannot be sure how He will act in situations. This leaves me with two words that we have to consider when dealing with God. Humbleness and brokenness. I consider brokenness to be the most important one. I believe that sin makes us and our immediate environment defective. Whatever we touch, feel and believe are also defective. This is why the outcome of good intentions are not always good. We are broken. We love as broken people. We act as broken people. We believe as broken people. Therefore we have to leave room for error and acknowledge the fact that we do not know it all. Humbleness is not just a nice idea. It is an acknowledgement of our position before God and a witness to the world. If you shout Sola Scriptura, know that your Sola Scriptura is broken, because you are involved. If you believe in freedom, know that your freedom is broken because you are involved. If you have a good cause to fight for, know that down the line your good fight will probably have negative consequences in ways that you never imagined. It is therefore vital to be humble before God and fellow man. If we shout at each other over doctrinal differences, know that our shouting is broken and usually there for all to see. I don’t know why, but God loves and uses broken people as His image bearers and through Jesus equips us to be His arms, hands and feet in a world bent on glorifying the self.
Sin is not a popular topic these days, but it is still our problem. It permeates our lives and our surroundings. We are naive if we believe we are immune to its effects. It is especially the people who believe they found the “whole truth” that steps into this trap. People who do not take sin seriously also miss the seriousness and lingering effect of sin through their actions. It will do us good to acknowledge our brokenness and to live humbly before God. For the sake of those around us 🙂