There is a common thought to the effect God is a hard-hearted, vengeful, spiteful, nasty fellow who looks for any opportunity to punish people. The idea is God has a long list of ‘sins’, forbidden acts; things like drinking, smoking, dancing, going to movies, doing ‘it’ with anyone not a spouse, scratching in front of one’s mother, being homosexual, not recycling, not attending church constantly, wearing stripes with other patterns and perhaps even parking in a handicapped zone.
God is constantly watching all of humanity to see if He can find anyone doing any of that stuff. When God spots a violator, He immediately swoops down – or at least dispatches a swooper in His place – and beats the violator – ‘sinner’ – about the head and shoulders and in other ways makes their life miserable. So there.
No. It ain’t that way.
Anyone know what ‘sin’ really means? What the concept really is? What’s the big deal about it?
There are two words in the Old Testament (written in Hebrew until about the 8th Century B. C. and Aramaic – a Semetic dialect very similar to Hebrew thereafter) which translate into the verb ‘sin’.
I am leaving out a good deal of detail. Should one wish to read the full entries,
Strong’s listing H2398
Transliterated to English “chata’ ” and pronounced as “khat·tä’ “. This word is a verb and means “to miss” or commit error.
The over-riding concept is ‘error’. To miss the mark and not perform as expected. This is the foul up, the negligent error causing a problem. It is still the problem of the person in question; if one misses the nail and hits oneself on the thumb, it was not intentional, but the thumb still objects. This is also the condition of being taken by temptation unaware; of being seduced while distracted.
Strong’s listing H5674
Transliterated to English “`abar” and pronounced as “ä·var’ “. This word is a verb and means to pass over or by or through, alienate, bring, carry, do away, take or take away. This is an intentional action, done not by misadventure or mistake but by design.
One might think of chata’ as being seduced while `abar is seducing.
Both, however, have the end result of not being right. One way or another, one has done wrong. One has done contrary to God’s wishes or commands.
Please note, there is no list attached.
So what? So what if I have done contrary to God’s will? What happens?
For the purpose of this discussion, there are two types of people in the world: Those who have a relationship with God through Jesus Christ and those who don’t.
For those who do not have a relationship with God, there is no ‘punishment’ consequence. That’s right, no punishment at all. The bad news is anyone without a relationship with God is already condemned to an eternity of Hell. That is the penalty for not having a relationship with God.
So; no one goes to Hell for drinking, smoking, homosexuality or homosexual behavior, heterosexual behavior, rape, treason, murder, smoking near a hospital or sassing one’s mother. The only reason, and I say again, ONLY reason anyone goes to Hell is for failing to, neglecting to, refusing to or just putting off establishing a relationship with Almighty God.
This is not to say there are no consequences in life. Lung cancer seems to be a side effect of smoking. AIDS seems to be a side effect of indiscriminate sexual behavior. Smashing one’s skull at the bottom of the Grand Canyon seems to be a side effect of gravity. I fell and bruised the inner workings of my left knee a week ago. God wasn’t punishing me for falling, or being stupid – for which I am extremely grateful! – it’s just what happens when one slips on ice and falls in an awkward manner.
For those with a relationship with God, the consequences are a bit different and a bit more complex.
The primary result of either sin or trespass in the life of a believer – which hereinafter will be shorthand for ‘one with a relationship with God through Jesus Christ – is a barrier to fellowship with God. A non-believer or deophobe might claim at this point, “This is where God gets mad and sulks because He doesn’t get His way!” No. What happens is a little more unbelievable; God is Holy and cannot exist in the presence of wrong. Probably more correct to say ‘wrong’ – of any sort – cannot exist in the presence of God. So – as far as I can tell – to protect the sinner from being destroyed by the conflict, God does not allow that sin and that sinner to come into His presence.
The result is the sinner feels a loss of contact, a separation from the Eternal. One is isolated from God.
In some ways, nothing. Life goes on. One continues to breathe. God does not prevent one from functioning. But – as a believer – one notes a missing element in one’s life. The ‘difference’ is much like a rift between friends. Two people can be friends and have a broken relationship for a time. The friends do not speak or associate over some disagreement or argument – but they both miss each other and the relationship. Until they can reconcile. God always seeks reconciliation with believers. Typically, believers realize they need the reconciliation and return to ‘normal’ relations.
Just as a note of transparency: I began this post nearly three years ago. I got stuck a bit and then sort of forgot about it. Sometimes stuff just takes longer.