I was standing on a street corner seeking to share the gospel with my fellow Jews. I ended up speaking there to one of my cousins for a while. He was particularly shocked by my view of sin. How could you view your own child, say, as sinful? Wouldn’t it hurt their self-esteem to tell them that or to view them that way? Didn’t you want to tell your child that she was good?
We always want to hang on to the idea that there is some good in us, that there is something good deep down inside of me; that I’m a good person really in the end. Maybe God chose me as a Christian because he saw that little something in me – something that made me different – a piece of goodness which the Holy Spirit fanned into flame.
After all it’s not like we humans are thoroughly evil – we can do good things. People who aren’t Christian do some very good things, love each other, help others in need. Jesus strikes the balance perfectly though: “If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children…” (Luke 11:13). According to Jesus we are evil in nature, but can do good things.
It’s important to understand what sin is. When most people talk about sin they are really talking about sins. Sins are bad or wrong things that we do. Some people’s sins are quite gross: murder, adultery, stealing. Other people’s sins are quite slight: telling an occasional white lie. But we all have the same disease: sin. We are evil in nature.
‘Sins’ are to ‘sin’ as symptoms are to a disease. If you went to the doctor with the measles imagine if he put band-aids on the red spots on your skin! That would be ridiculous. The red spots are just a symptom of measles. The disease is the virus in your blood stream. The disease needs to be treated, not the symptoms as such.
The bad things that we do are symptoms of a disease. The disease, our evil nature, is the problem. When we talk about sin we are not talking about the bad things that we do. No, we are talking about our evil nature. Everyone sins. But everyone is also sinful – that is far worse. God says that: “The Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.” (Genesis 6:5). Every intention of the thoughts of our heart is only evil continually. Wow! We are thoroughly evil. Our hearts are not right before God. Mind you, we are not as sinful as we could be. This is not saying that we are 100% sinful. However sin infects every fibre of our being. Our minds, attitudes, actions, outlook – everything about us is infected by sin. This is the disease.
Jesus himself said: “What comes out of a person is what defiles him. For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.” (Mark 7:20-23). These symptoms come from our evil hearts. The disease gives rise to our symptoms of sin.
God’s standard of right and wrong is also perfect: perfectly right and good. And his standards are right! We should love others as we love ourselves. We should be gentle, kind, patient, loving, forbearing, forgiving, self-controlled, etc. These things are right. But the pass mark is not 50%. The pass mark is 100%. Anything in us that falls below that 100% line is utterly abhorrent. We are grossly sinful in God’s eyes.
What does this mean for us in practice as Christians? Stay tuned for part 2 scheduled for 5/11.
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