Episode 1. Why Sin is a Four Letter Word
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Sin – now there’s a word that goes down like a lead balloon. It’s a bit … well for many people, it feels like some old fashioned religious concept from the past. But the facts are that even …
Sin – now there’s a word that goes down like a lead balloon. It’s a bit … well for many people, it feels like some old fashioned religious concept from the past. But the facts are that even though it’s become something of a four letter word, sin is the greatest malady in this world today.
It’s Monday again and the weeks march by inexorably, don’t they? Amazing. Now something that strikes me as I look around the world in which we live, is that we live in a world where just about anything goes. Even in my short lifetime – just on a half a century which in the overall scheme of history is like a drop in the ocean – things have changed radically. Let me give you an example.
When I was young, falling pregnant outside of marriage was a matter of great shame. Today, it’s a lifestyle choice that many women make. Many, many couples choose to live together without making the commitment of marriage. And just in case you think I’m plucking that out of the air, the statistics tell us that in Australia at least, cohabitation before marriage has increased – wait for this – from18% of couples in 1975 to almost 60% today. It’s gone from being the exception to almost being the norm.
Just the way things are these days. And divorce rates, again using Australian statistics, the number of divorces has jumped radically in my life time, from around 7,000 in 1959 to around 50,000 this year, with some 43% of marriages ending in divorce.
Things have changed. Definitely changed.
Question is: what’s going on?
You know sometimes you hear people thumping the table telling us how bad things are these days. “Not like the good old days when I was young!” The implication is that this younger generation is … well, you know, they have no discipline and standards and … if only things were like they were back in the good old days.
Problem is, the good old days weren’t really such good old days. Husbands still beat their wives back in “good old days”. Children were still abused back in the good old days. Bad still happened in the good old days too. Let’s be honest. So the last thing under the sun I want to be doing is suggesting that we somehow turn back the clock to the things will be fine again just like they were in the good old days. Because a) we can’t turn the clock back and b) if we could, things weren’t necessarily so grand back in those “good old days”.
And there’s a reason for that. Because from the moment Adam and Eve took their first bite of that apple from that one tree, the one tree that beautiful, abundant, peaceful, God said, “Don’t eat the fruit of this tree”, from that moment, there’s been a whole theme going on in this world and it’s called “sin”. Let’s listen to the story. Genesis Chapter 3:
Now the serpent, he was craftier than the other wild animals that the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, did God say, ‘You shall not eat from any tree in the garden?’ But the woman said to the serpent, ‘We may eat the fruit of the trees in the garden, but God said “You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the middle of the garden, nor shall you touch it, or you will die”’. But the serpent said to the woman, ‘You won’t die because God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be open and you’ll be like God, knowing good and evil.’
So when the woman saw the tree was good for food and it was a delight to the eyes and the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of it’s fruit and ate. And she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate. Then the eyes of both were open and they knew that they were naked and they sewed fig leaves together and make loin cloths for themselves.
And they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden at the time of the evening breeze, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the Lord God among the trees of the garden. But the Lord God called to the man and said, ‘Where are you?’ He said, ‘I heard the sound of you in the garden and I was afraid because I was naked and I hid myself.’
And God said, ‘Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree which I commanded you not to eat?’ The man said, ‘The woman whom you gave me, she gave me the fruit from the tree and I ate.’ And the Lord God said to the woman, ‘What is it that you have done?’ The woman said, ‘The serpent tricked me and I ate.’
Now you see, things have changed in the world. We live in a world where anything goes, right? Well just about anything. Many a moral standard of yesteryear seems old fashioned and irrelevant and too many downright offensive. We’re a whole bunch more relaxed about things these days compared to those rigid old rules from last century. So this notion of sin – of rebelling against God, of eating from the wrong tree – it’s seems kind of outdated. A throwback from the church of the 1950’s. It feels … well, irrelevant in the age that we live, doesn’t it.
And there are some things from the past, the way woman were treated as chattels almost. They were terrible. It still happens in places around the world today. Or treating differently because of their skin colour or nationality. So many faults and flaws in the rigid rules from the past to be sure. And that, that’s why this short three letter world ‘sin’ is something of a four letter word these days. A dirty word. A nasty word. A word that implies moral judgement against the standards of some rigid and flawed rules from our childhood.
But I’m not so much talking about those, about man-made rules. The thing that ushered pain and suffering into this world was our rebellion against God, starting with Adam and Eve in the garden. Read along in Chapter three of that book of Genesis and we find that there were some serious consequences for their actions. Painful consequences.
So, while “sin” is a word that seems to carry a whole bunch of religious baggage around with it, actually it speaks of our rebellion against God, and that word “sin” as it’s used in the Bible means literally “to miss the mark”, “to miss the whole point”, “to miss out on your share”. And that’s the consequence of our rebellion against God. It’s not this thing that there a whole bunch of rigid rules we have to follow to get our tick and dots to get into heaven. That’s not it.
The point is that God is a God who loves us. He loves you, He loves me beyond anything we can imagine love to be. Writes the Apostle Paul to his friends in Ephesus. Ephesians Chapter 3 verses 18 & 19. He says:
I pray that you might have the power to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.
You know, He loves us so much, more than words can ever say. So when we turn our backs on Him, when we decide to live our lives our way, when we adopt this “anything goes” attitude, there are consequences. Simple things. Eat too much of the wrong stuff, it will ruin your health. Work too hard and don’t get enough rest, it will ruin your life. Play too hard, drink too hard, it will ruin your health and your relationships.
Cause and effect. Come on. This is not rocket science. It’s as plain as the nose on your face and mine. There are consequences. As much as we try and kid ourselves, as much as we try to tell ourselves we can have anything, be anything, do anything, it will all be okay – we know that’s a lie and we know that there are always consequences.
We’ve been duped into thinking that sin is some old fashioned, irrelevant, religious word from the past, when all along it’s the greatest malady in our lives. When all along that rebellion is robbing us of the fruit of a good and healthy relationship with God. A God who loves us so much, that He sent His only Son Jesus so whoever believes in Him wouldn’t perish but instead would have eternal life.