Okay, I’ve talked about sin in an abstract way, and repeated myself four times and am still getting the same questions, which means I haven’t been clear.
Also, a lot of my answers were, “This will have to wait until later,” so I’m going ahead with the later, now. I’m going to post two separate posts today, both with pretty much the same theme, but divided based on their scriptural foundations (also because they’re long).
The first is a passage that I’ve been meaning to put here every day for the past week and a half, because of how it applies to things I’ve already said. And, I mean, at least once a day I’d think, “AAARGH! How could I NOT have done that yet?!” style of thing.
In Matthew 5 (yeah, Sermon on the Mount territory), Jesus starts talking about sin, and commandments, and the Law. Jesus starts addressing some of the issues I’ve been talking about — the Godaccountant myth, the role of sin in our lives. He says, right out, that sin is not sin because of a wicked action, but because of the effect it has on who you are as a person — because when you think like a sinful person, you are constructing for yourself a sinful world, rather than a righteous one.
Let’s get right to it:
“Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear [that is, in my opinion, until the distinction between the two disappear when constructed reality comes to an end], not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the law until everything is accomplished.”
By “the Law” I don’t think he’s talking about the laws of the Pharisees, because he goes on to say:
“For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of Heaven.”
So he’s calling for a rightneousness above and beyond obedience. Toby and I were talking about this yesterday. Actually…Nicki and I were talking about it, too. By being obedient to a ruleset you can behave (like the Pharisees and teachers of the Law) without ever committing your heart to the underlying truths that MAKE those sins sinful, and those righteous acts righteous. This is what Jesus means when he says your righteousness must surpass that of the Pharisees and teachers of the Law — you must be righteous because you’d LEARNED to be a good person, not just because you’ve avoided doing bad things. Need some examples? Jesus provides.
“You have heard that is was said to the people long ago, ‘Do not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment.”
“You have heard that it was said, ‘Do not commit adultery.’ But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”
Well what kind of a chance does THAT leave us?
None, under the Godaccountant myth. But it makes perfect sense when you consider it from the point of view I was describing yesterday (in my comments to Nicki on a days old post). Here you have, in two instances, ultimate temporal sinful acts (murder and adultery), and Jesus is saying that the ACTIONS of the sins don’t matter because, long before you’ve committed them, you’ve already committed the real sin in your heart.
What I claimed yesterday was that, by his death, Jesus cleansed us (all humanity, even) from all the eternal consequences of our temporal acts.
(Temporal means “something bounded by time.” It’s a counterpart to infinite. It’s NOT just a typo on temporary, and doesn’t exactly mean the same thing. A life is temporal. The Roman empire was temporal. These things are not necessarily short-lived, except against the backdrop of eternity. Just…to clarify.)
Back to my point. We are already FOGIVEN for murdering anyone we murder. We are already forgiven, by the blood of Christ, for committing adultery. Those actions cannot commit us to Hell — we’ve been redeemed for once and all.
BUT, when we die, we will have to be the kind of person who can say, “Yes, God, I believe in the sanctity of all souls enough to peacefully coexist with ALL of the Saints, for all eternity.” If we have lived our lives, if we have built for ourselves a world in which our own selfishness causes us to take another person’s life, we are not preparing ourselves to be able to make that decision.
We’ll have to say, “Yes, God, I understand the purity of perfect love and the devotion to one love for one person above all others, so I am ready to be submitted and faithful to you for all eternity.” Monogamy is Unnatural. Commitment to one love above all others, for all time, is not a thing of this world. It’s PRACTICE, and practice we desperately need, because when we leave this world with its laws, we enter a new world with Laws that we cannot break, and one of those is utter, self-sacrificing devotion to God’s love. If we have lived our life indulging in our own desires, chasing after every love that can satisfy us, we will NOT be ready to accept God’s one love when the time comes.
It’s not a matter of committing a sin — it’s a matter of BEING a sinful person. A man could lust after a woman once, and delight in it so much, learn so little from the consequences, that he condemned himself to Hell at that moment. A man could spend his whole life chasing every woman he can get his hands on, acting in lewd and terrible ways, and if he realizes in the end that it’s all for nothing, if he really LEARNS that this lifestyle has nothing to offer him, but that there’s another one available (and if he’s learned enough of God’s providence elsewhere in his life to be able to faithfully accept it), then he has lived a good life, in that he prepared himself to accept Heaven.
It’s about Learning, not about doing good. It’s about preparing ourselves to be the kind of people who live in Heaven. That requires trials. That requires suffering. That requires abject misery at times, to truly understand why I can’t GET what I want — I have to take what God gives me, and just trust that that will be good enough.
I promised 6, didn’t I? Okay, you are all familiar with the sins passage in the Sermon on the Mount, and I HIGHLY encourage you to read it through, twice, before you put this post away for the day. I’ll summarize and commentate, though.
Of divorce, Jesus says that there is virtually no condition under which it is acceptable, because the very act of divorce is denying the viability of an eternal, self-sacrificing, dependent love (which is the primary relationship we are supposed to have with God). If you choose to divorce, you are practicing making the wrong decision in Infinity. Got it?
I’ve known people who refused to associate with willingly divorced people because of this passage. How so? Yes, Jesus calls it a sin, but he does this a paragraph after saying the same of being ANGRY WITH YOUR BROTHER! Come on! Jesus’ point is that we are all sinful, every day, and if we can’t learn to get BETTER through the experience, yes, we’re barring ourselves from Heaven, but committing temporal sins is not a punishable offense. That price has been paid. EVERYBODY’s going to fail, again and again and again — the system was set up for that!
On oaths, he says don’t swear to this extent or that extent, but let yes be yes and no, no. Again, because if you have to swear to the truth of something, you’re implying (and believing, and constructing in your reality) that the standard is untruth. If you begin by assuming most things most people say are lies (yourself included), then you are crippling your ability to interact with others, and giving yourself license to lie to others, which cripples the potential of the relationship. By lying, you deliberately keep a relationship from achieving the potential it could — a sin. By swearing an oath, you convince yourself that most of the things said are lies, which has the same effect. In other words, Jesus is establishing clearly that the sin is NOT what you do within this imaginary world, it’s the impact that your thoughts and actions have on who you are as a person.
“You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ But I tell you, Do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.”
This is a very important one, because it’s answering the complaints that are bubbling in all your minds. “But that’s not FAIR!” I know, evil should be punished, and good should be rewarded. The fact of the matter is, we do not want Justice, we could not SURVIVE Justice and, thank God, we don’t ever have to face Justice (at least, not for our temporal actions). All of you that are thinking there HAS to be some punishment for our earthly deeds, are thinking eye for eye, and tooth for tooth. That’s sinful. That’s constructing for yourself a world in which human failure (an in-built trait in our corporal forms) goes unforgiven. You’re constructing a world in which God can’t forgive you for YOUR striking him — for YOUR demanding he go with you where he doesn’t want to go, for YOU taking what is rightfully his out of base selfishness — you are constructing a world where God cannot forgive you for being human.
GOD didn’t make a world like that — he went out of his way to make a world where we CAN be forgiven. Where all of our rebellions against him and demands of him result in him giving us MORE, and acting with more love toward us. If we create a world WITHOUT that potential for ourselves (and legalists do it ALL THE TIME), we are deliberately stripping ourselves of our single greatest potential — Grace. And that is a sin. So we should live as though we BELIEVE in a generous and forgiving universe, in spite of the human failure we have to face every day.
And the last of Jesus’ commandments here, which ends with the most perfect summary.
“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. [Build for yourself a world in which Love always makes sense. If you hate where it makes sense to hate, you are constructing a world that includes hate. If you love even when it makes sense to hate, you’re constructing a world entirely full of love, which is a much better one to live in, Carebears aside. Continuing:]
“He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collector’s doing that? [In other words, loving those who love you is only constructing a Naturalistic world — that is a temporally logical thing to do, it’s not a Good act, even though it’s not a bad one.] And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”
And how many Sunday School teachers stumble over that last line? It’s not a poser. It’s not an impossible command. Because Jesus is calling us to make an Infinite decision. Physical bodies can’t even make that choice, so Jesus isn’t saying, “While you’re alive, do what God does.” He’s telling us to BE like God — again, something we can’t even do while we’re temporal. So we have a lifetime to perpare ourselves for that. We have a lifetime to learn from our mistakes (failing and failing and failing in our quest to BECOME perfect). The perfection will never happen in this world — it’s not supposed to. It’s not natural. When perfection comes, all else will have faded away. All that will be left, are the things we have learned about Faith, Hope, and Love. If you’ve learned enough of these three, you get to go home. Simple as that.