Category Archives: Sin
Ever thought about how your keyboard illustrates the 7 deadly sins? Now you can.
So, Adam and Eve were kicked out of the Garden, forced to live east of Eden. And, everyone who has come after them has been born east of Eden as well—separated from God, cut off from the source of life, dead in our sins. We all fell together.
Now, I can almost hear the objections forming in your mind. They’re in mine as well. How can this be fair? We didn’t choose to break that commandment. Why are we being punished?
The simplest answer is to point out that although we didn’t break that commandment, we’ve broken plenty since. Just like Adam and Eve, we’ve made our own choices—deciding to focus on our own plans and desires, rather than pursuing and manifesting God’s glory in the world. So, even if we set aside Adam and Eve’s sin, we’re far from blameless.
But, there’s a deeper answer as well. From the Bible’s perspective, we’re all in this together.
When I lived in Scotland, I learned a couple of interesting facts. First, it’s sometimes a bit awkward to be American in a place where American policies are not terribly popular. And, second, Canadians do not like it when people think they they’re American.
The first point became clear because we lived in Scotland during the Bush/Kerry election, a time when Scottish frustration with the war in Iraq was high. So, American politics and policies were on everyone’s mind. And, people quickly noticed that I was American. You’d think it would be hard to pick out the American in a room full of Scots. But, apparently it’s not. Several times complete strangers walked up and asked me about how I was going to vote in the upcoming election and whether I supported the war. On two different occasions, I got trapped in pretty intense political “conversations”—i.e., the other person vented about the evils of American foreign policy while I scanned the room for a window large enough for both me and my backpack.
Was it fair for these people to associate me with the actions and policies of my country? After all, I didn’t create any of these policies, and I certainly wasn’t involved in any of those actions. I’ve never even been to Iraq. None of this was my fault. I wasn’t responsible.
But I was.
I wasn’t directly responsible, of course. It’s not like I was in the Oval Office making the decisions. But, I am an American. I am a part of the whole. I enjoy the many blessings that come from being a part of that whole, and I also bear some responsibility for the actions of the whole. Even if I thought that a particular decision or action was a bad idea, even if I voted against those who were making the decisions, I’m still a part of that greater whole that we call America. Consequently, I bear some responsibility for what America does. And, I certainly share in any consequences that result. I may not always like it, but there is a real sense in which we’re all in this together.
All of this can be really annoying if you’re Canadian. The second thing I learned in Scotland is that although Europeans have an easy time identifying if you’re American, they have a really hard time telling Americans and Canadians apart. So, if you’re Canadian, people tend just to assume that you’re American. And, then you have to put up with all the grief that being American can bring where American policies are unpopular.
Of course, Canadians have an advantage. They can simply point out that they’re not American. People apologize, and the harassment ends.
Eyeing a window that is clearly too small for both me and my backpack, I consider taking the cheap way out. “Me? No, I’m from Canada.”
But, of course, I’m not. I’m American. And, although I like being American, it does come with some drawbacks at times. Because we’re all in this together.
[Okay, I’m looking for some feedback here. I’m in the part of the Gospel book that deals with the fact that after the Garden sin spreads everywhere (kind of like Justin Bieber – see my post on The Saturday Morning Syrup Monster). And, I want to deal with the objection that it’s not fair for us to experience the consequences of sin when we didn’t do anything. And, I want to introduce the idea that there is a corporate dynamic at work. I don’t want to get into details, but I want to expose people to the idea that “we’re all in this together.” Let me know what you think.]
I’m either posting this cartoon because I think it could be used as a good discussion starter on predestination, total depravity, and evangelism, or because I just want to rile up the Calvinists. I’m not sure. Either way, here you go.
What is this within me that drives me to do the things that I do? Where does it come from? Why won’t it let me go? What’s wrong with me? Can I be fixed?
These are the recurrent question raised in season 2 of Dexter. Throughout the season, Dexter struggles to come to grips with what he calls his “dark passenger” who is with him wherever he goes and drives his need for violence. Although it rests deep within him, it feels like a stranger. Some alien force controlling his every action. He strives to hide it from everyone around him, but it’s always there.
In the show, the “dark passenger” works best as a an analogy for addiction. But, as I watched, it struck me as a powerful picture of sin as well. As Paul says, “For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate.” (Romans 7:15)
Here are a couple of the more powerful scenes describing Dexter’s dark passenger. (See also my post on 5 Things I Learned about the Gospel from a Serial Killer.)
She is one of the most interesting/disturbing pop culture figures today. She is likened to other pop divas as Brittney Spears, Katy Perry, and Christina Aguilera, but has cut out a name for herself in her own right. She wears dresses made of raw meat and has one of the most eclectic wardrobes of all time. Every song she produces is a number one hit and I can guarantee that almost every person from the ages of 8-35 (respectively) knows of her or about her.
What you may not have known about Lady Gaga is that she is a theologian! It may surprise some, but she has a view of God, informed by some type of sources, and she teaches a particular doctrine(s). Her latest song, Born This Way, which has stood in the number one spot on iTunes since being released, is called the “Manifesto of Mother Monster,” making it a type of creed for people to live by. The entire song has two goals: 1) To get people to love and accept themselves as they are, and 2) To get people to be love and accept others as they are. The logical reasoning for this acceptance is found in the chorus:
I’m beautiful in my way,
‘Cause God makes no mistakes
I’m on the right track, baby
I was born this way
Don’t hide yourself in regret,
Just love yourself and you’re set
I’m on the right track, baby
I was born this way
(Born this way)
Sounds like a decent message. She brings God into the equation, and does make an appropriate and true statement about him, “God makes no mistakes.” What Christian can argue with that message? To argue anything other than that is to accuse God of making mistakes, being ignorant of what is going on in the world, and unable to govern his universe. We know from Scripture, however, that God is infinite, wise, all-powerful, and accomplishes exactly what he wants. He truly makes no mistakes.
She makes another partially true statement about “being born” the way you are. If you’re white, black, brown, American, Chinese, or Lebanese God caused you to be born this way. Again, true. We know from Acts 17:26-27 that God established the boundaries of men, allotted them the periods of time they would live in, and what nationality they would be. Who could argue that from the womb they got to plead a case for where they wanted to be born, or what nationality they wanted to be, or what language they wanted to speak. No, God did that and according to Paul he did it in the hope that men would seek him.
Where Lady Gaga goes wrong is in saying that there is no distinction between nationality and sin. If God makes no mistakes, and God is in control of your nationality and time of birth, then God also made you lesbian, gay, straight, or bisexual. Our acceptance of one’s nationality or gender, should be no different from our acceptance of their sexuality. What Lady Gaga fails to consider, however, is that although God makes no mistakes, man makes plenty of them and has been doing so since the Garden of Eden. Is it a sin to be African American? No. Is it a sin to be a white male? No. Is it a sin to be a female from Argentina? No. Is it a sin to be lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, or a sexually immoral heterosexual? Yes. When it comes to nationality or gender, you have no choice. When it comes to your sexuality you do, and the Bible is clear when it comes to this issue.
Why does a pop song matter? It matters because everyone is a theologian. And the question is not whether or not a person has a theological grid for understanding who God is. The question is whether or not the Bible and the person and work of Jesus Christ inform that theological grid. Lady Gaga is training/discipling/preaching to culture and the people in your church, especially students, to grid their view of God and others through a particular lens, one of love and acceptance. And that grid is extremely popular in our day! That’s not necessarily a bad thing to call people to. Christians should be calling each other to love people. However, the danger is that this grid does not take into account the justice of God, the reality of sin, the brokenness of man, the wrath of God against sin, or the desire of God to forgive sinners in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. She’s mixing truth with the cyanide of lie, and great hosts of people are drinking the juice.
If Lady Gaga is right, then it is not sinful for a man to be an alcoholic who beats his wife. After all, God made me to love alcohol and hate women. I was born this way. It’s not a sin to molest little children. After all someone’s sexual preference for small children would be no different from the lesbian, gay, or heterosexual persons. Just ask the North American Man/Boy Association. They were born that way. And if you’re really going to buy into the god of Gaga, then not only do you simply need to love and accept yourself for being this way, but all of us who disagree with your lifestyle simply need to be more accepting. If Lady Gaga would disagree with me, that in fact pedophilia and spousal abuse is evil (sin?), then it would be appropriate to ask her on what authority she stands, and why we should believe her? At this point, please spare me the argument about genetic DNA that shows certain propensities towards certain actions. All I have to say to that is, welcome to the human race. We all have those, and it doesn’t make one’s particular actions any more right/good, or them any less responsible for their choices.
According to Scripture however, we learn that God makes no mistakes, he is sovereignly ruling his creation, and that sin has entered and corrupted what was good. What the creation hates is that the Creator God gets to define what sin is. Since a rebellious creation does not like his definition, it attempts to redefine and write its own. The good thing is that God will not stand for his creation rebelling against him and destroying itself, so he intervenes. He models what love really is by sending his own Son to make right what was made wrong and restore relationship. In this God shows his love and acceptance towards sinners (really horrible ones as well, just ask Paul), and his absolute hatred of sin. There is such a thing as sin, God gets to say what it is, it will be accounted for, and everyone will have to deal with Jesus. We were “born this way.” This way is broken and needs redemption. Thank God that we have a redeemer. It is the height of arrogance, rebellion, and stupidity to rejoice in a sin sick state, when the remedy has been provided. Praise God that although we were “born this way,” we don’t have to stay in it.
I was trying to get through this entire book without mentioning vampires, but apparently I’m not going to make it. (It’s important to realize that although zombies are cool, vampires are lame; there’s a big difference.) But vampires actually do a really good job of illustrating an important point: without blood, there’s no life.
The life of a vampire is really pretty simple: sleep all day, come out night to seduce innocent women, drink blood, avoid impaling yourself on sharp pieces of wood, go back to bed. That doesn’t sound terribly difficult—boring maybe, but not hard.
The key piece in the equation, of course, is the blood, the source of the vampire’s life. Without blood, the vampire has no power, no life, no existence. So, on a regular basis, the vampire must locate a victim – piercing the tender skin and drinking in the life-giving liquid.
Blood is life.
That’s true for the victim as well, though from a very different perspective. The same act that sustains the life of the vampire also brings death to the victim. As the vampire draws forth nourishment, its victim grows weak, pale, and listless—life itself seeping out through two small holes in the flesh.
Blood is death.
One substance, two very different results. Life and death. Twin moons circling the same planet.
That’s how the Bible views blood as well. On the one hand, blood is what keeps us alive and allows us to carry on our tasks in the world. God made blood to course through our veins and sustain life in every part of our being. In Eden, God created blood, and it was good. But, on the other hand, once shalom shattered and shoah entered the world, blood came to mean something else. Still the source of life, it also became the symbol of death. When blood is shed, the power of death lurks close by. So, in the Bible, blood represents both the power of life that God gave to all creatures at creation and the awesome destructiveness of death that descended on us east of Eden.
You can see this most clearly in the biblical sacrifices. If you stop and think about it for a moment, sacrifices are a very weird thing. Imagine that you’re an Israelite and you’ve just sinned against God. What should you do? Why, go lop the head off some poor, innocent ram, of course. That’s a great system. At least it is for the human; I’m sure the ram sees things very differently.
The point of the sacrifice, though, wasn’t to take out Israel’s problems on some innocent animal. That would be weird indeed. The sacrifices were given to show the devastating connection between sin and death, as the animal’s lifeblood was spilled in response to our failures. With clocklike regularity, the Israelites brought their animals to the priests and shed blood as a reminder of the fact that they lived east of Eden, in the brokenness of shoah, in bondage to death. As Paul says later, “the wages of sin is death” (Rom. 3:23). And, every time the Israelites brought forward their sin sacrifices, they reminded themselves of this truth.
At the same time, though, the blood brought a promise of life. Israel always knew that somehow it was only through the shedding of blood that forgiveness and life would be restored to God’s people. Throughout the Law, God promised he would forgive his people when they brought their sacrifices to him (see esp. Lev. 4-5). And, the author of Hebrews makes the connection even clearer when he says, “Without the shedding of blood, there is no forgiveness of sins” (Heb. 9:22).
So, throughout the Old Testament, two truths stand out: (1) Sin brings death and the shedding of blood; (2) through the shedding of blood comes forgiveness and life.
But why? What is the connection between the death of animals and the promise of forgiveness and life? The Old Testament never says. The Israelites just take it on faith that God will be faithful and will do what he promises.
Then Jesus came.
And, we killed him, shedding his blood on the cross.
And the truth became clear.
We can still see the dark side of blood. Just read the story of Jesus’ death. How can you miss the horror of shoah? The betrayals, beatings, mockery, loneliness, pain, blood, and death. Could there be a clearer picture? “The light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil” (Jn. 3:19). Blood shed, the Messiah died.
And, he died as one of us. The eternal Son of God became fully human, even to the extent of entering into our brokenness and subjecting himself to the terrifying reality of death: “being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross!” (Philippians 2:6-8). The light of the world subjected to the brutality of death, all so that he could be one of us.
But the blood of Christ means so much more than just this. Jesus shared in our humanity so that he might break the power of death (Heb. 2:14). His death was not the pointless sacrifice of a tragic Shakespearean hero. No, it had purpose. Though we were enslaved to the power of sin and destruction, Jesus died so that we might be reborn as those who have the gift of life (Rom. 6:23; 8:2).
The blood of Christ signifies both the death that comes as the necessary consequence of living in a broken world, and the life that comes to those who belong to the Messiah (John 6:53-54).
We killed the king, but life flourished anyway.
[You can read the rest of the posts in this series on the Gospel Book page.]
The satirical “news” site The Onion posted great piece yesterday on our incredible ability to view sinful behavior as abnormal despite mountains of evidence to the contrary.
Despite there being nothing unusual about the incident in Brandon, the media has descended upon the small town in droves, somehow finding a way to portray the event as if it were a novel phenomenon or some sort of aberration within human society, an assertion that even a cursory glimpse at the species’ violent past would immediately disprove.
There is, of course, truth in the idea that some acts are more heinous than others. But, we do maintain an incredibly optimistic outlook on human behavior, an optimism that causes us to be constantly surprised when the reality of sin confronts us in unavoidable ways.
You’ve probably heard by now Amazon’s problems with pedophilia. As CNN describes the situation:
An e-book for sale on Amazon.com that appears to defend pedophilia has sparked hundreds of angry user comments and threats to boycott the online retailer unless it pulls the title.
And, according to the most recent updates, Amazon has pulled the title. But, before they did so, they apparently defended selling the book based on the premise that it would be “censorship not to sell certain titles because we believe their message is objectionable.” And, of course, they’re right that this would be censorship. But, they’re wrong about this being a problem. Amazon is a for-profit company with every right to exercise censorship over the products that they will put up for sale. Indeed, their own publication policy prohibits selling “pornography” on the site. That is also censorship. And, it’s also okay. The problem is that we’ve turned “censorship” into a bad word that is necessarily wrong in all its forms, which is absurd. Unless a business is going to sell everything imaginable, it necessarily exercises some level of censorship.
And, of course, in this case censorship is very much called for. As CNN reports,
The author of “The Pedophile’s Guide to Love and Pleasure: A Child-Lover’s Code of Conduct” said he published the controversial tome to address what he considers unfair portrayals of pedophiles in the media.
So, the author’s explicit purpose is to make pedophilia more acceptable. And, as he explains in an interview, he thinks he can do this by making clear which sexual acts with children are inappropriate and which are perfectly fine. If there’s a book worthy of censorship, this would seem to be an obvious candidate. And, while “free speech” may cover the author’s right to say such things, there is no “right” that says Amazon has to sell it.