The Severity Of Sin

Black Friday sitting in juxtaposition to the Occupy Movement got me to thinking. Although the Occupiers aren’t speaking with one voice about much, their early 99% signs and the choice of Wall Street as a starting place, tagged them as protesting corporate greed. Why, I began to wonder, weren’t they protesting the greed of the shoppers who pushed and shoved and cursed and pepper sprayed their way to “big savings” on Black Friday?

It’s all in the proportion, I suppose. As long as someone wasn’t bilking thousands of people out of their life savings, then their greed wasn’t alarming. In fact, their greed probably looked a lot like our greed, and our greed is “normal.”

After all, everyone wants the best buy they can get, right? If I have to elbow someone else for the last sale item on the shelf, then so be it. The fastest, most pointy-elbowed chick won the day, right? Shopper beware.

The thing is, the mentality is no different than the corporate exec raking in his millions in bonuses even as thousands of his employees end up jobless. The craftiest, business-wise guy won the day, right? Entrepreneur beware.

In truth, we tolerate greed, or pride, or gossip, or anger, or lying, or any number of sins just as long as they a) don’t hurt us directly; and b) don’t end up beyond some culturally acceptable line. We can hurl abuse at players of an opposing team, and maybe even throw a (plastic) cup of beer at him, but when someone beats up a fan of the opposing team and puts him in the hospital, that’s over the line. Some abuse is tolerable, too much is criminal.

The acceptable limits, I believe, exist because we are constantly comparing ourselves with ourselves. We start with an understanding that nobody’s perfect. So we’re all in the category of mess-ups and it’s just a matter of finding our ranking — the lower the better. As long as I believe there are more people ranked above me than below me, I’m in good shape. I’m normal. Acceptable.

The normal part is true, the acceptable part, not so much. The real problem is we don’t have an understanding of how deadly sin is. How much exposure to anthrax is acceptable? How much cyanide is safe to ingest? We understand these to be lethal and do what we can to avoid or counteract them. Sin is lethal too, in small doses or large. There is no acceptable level of wolf’s bane, and there should be no acceptable level of sin.

We don’t think there are direct effects of sin, however. We understand that people die, and that’s a fact of life, no matter how good or bad a person has been. That should be our clue: nobody’s perfect, and everybody dies. Those are about the only categorical statements we can make about humans. Why is it we miss the fact that there’s an association between them? The Bible states it clearly: The wages of sin is death. Little sins, big sins, greed that hurts one or greed that hurts many — the wages are the same.

Which initially might not seem fair. I mean, if some people do their best to go along without hurting others, shouldn’t they get some credit for it? That’s like asking if someone who was only exposed to anthrax for a day should be considered better off than someone who was exposed for a month. Both are deadly.

But we don’t understand this deadly nature of sin. We don’t understand because we can’t grasp the offense sin is to Holiness.

Yet we’re offended at corporate greed. And I feel sure that people who were pepper sprayed at the mall Friday were offended at the greedy shopper. Perhaps others were offended when they were pushed and shoved or cursed.

Our offense seems justified, though we push and shove too, though we cheat on our taxes or on our spouse or in a game of cards with our friends. We who are sinful find sin against us offensive. What, then, must a holy God feel when He is sinned against?

And there’s the real point. Every one of our sins is against Him. Sin after sin after sin. We may stay in the normal range, but think about the hateful attitudes, pride, envy, greed, lust that piles up in one person’s heart over a week, a year, a decade. Each of our sins is toxic. Not that God can be hurt by them but they are like water to His oil. They cannot mix.

On the other hand, sin is toxic to us, even in the smallest measure.

But God who loves us provided the antidote. More precisely, He provided the substitute. Physical death is still part of our experience until Christ returns, but because of His willingness to stand in my place, I am free from the permanent effects of sin if I put myself at His mercy and ask Him to rescue me.

God, because of Christ, has promised He will forgive those who confess their sins:

If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9).

Does God’s forgiveness mean sin isn’t really such a big deal after all? Hardly. Sin is as toxic as ever, but God’s power is greater. Consequently, Christ, the Sinless One in Whom the fullness of Deity dwells, paid in our stead … if we confess, if we continue in the faith.

Yet He has now reconciled you in His fleshly body through death, in order to present you before Him holy and blameless and beyond reproach — if indeed you continue in the faith firmly established and steadfast, and not moved away from the hope of the gospel (Col. 1:22-23a).

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Published in: on November 29, 2011 at 6:10 pm  Comments (7)  
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7 Comments

  1. The irony and the application are both points well-taken. Can we be too greedy for the Love of the Lord? Can we be so self-absorbed in receiving God’s gracious Love for us that we forget to “Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves;?”

    I am here, picturing how easy it would be for me to get into navel gazing about this problem and still forget there are so many Christians who are persecuted for the faith, daily!

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  2. Our view of (acceptable) holiness justifies many sins in our lives and that in others. We can’t comprehend holy, holy, holy. I think the revelation of this attribute of God will be the most surprising, and devastating.

    To avoid the elbows and pepper spray, I do Cyber Monday. I still fight for the best deals though.

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  3. Becky, your insight and directness are needed. Unswerving on the narrow way, you make things plain.
    Thank you!

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  4. […] able to provide perfect justice. Only God can, but that doesn’t bring us comfort because the severity of sin means, I too must face His justice — if it weren’t for His great kindness and mercy […]

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  5. Another great post, Becky. Really drives home the image of the speck in another’s eye and the plank in my own.

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  6. Peggy, I think Mark’s comment is helpful. No navel gazing will benefit us, but a true prayer for God to search us and know us and show us if there is any wicked way in us, means we desire the Holy Spirit to bring us to a place of repentance. What an understanding of the severity of sin should do for the believer is to press us to our knees seeking His forgiveness and to spur us on to tell others of the severity of sin and kindness of God.

    Becky

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  7. Bob, Maria, Mark, thanks for your insights and feedback. I appreciate you sharing your opinions.

    Bob, I agree that we can’t grasp God’s holiness, and yet He repeatedly told the Israelites to be holy because He was holy. And we are to be like Him. Much … maybe all … of our lives as believers is about God shaping us into the image of His Son, the Sinless One in whom dwelt the fullness of Deity. So we are in the process of learning what holiness means, I think.

    The bigger issue, I think, is that people who reject Christ or ignore Him may do so because we’ve built this culture in which sin is acceptable, even expected. Who needs a savior if there’s no egregious something about us that makes it impossible for us to save ourselves/

    Becky

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