What does God think about Sin? The answers may surprise you.
God is utterly opposed to every sin, even small ones. Not because God is a picky killjoy, but because God knows that sins separate us from him and from one another. Jesus shocked his listeners when he said (Matthew 5:21):
You have heard that it was said to those of ancient times, “You shall not murder” and “Whoever murders shall be liable to judgment.” But I say to you that if you are angry with your brother or sister, you will be liable to judgment.
And again (Matthew 5:43):
You have heard that it was said, “You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.” But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.
And again (Matthew 5:48):
Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.
All sins are serious and all sins are against God. That’s a tough standard, isn’t it? Be as perfect as God? It’s impossible!
There are lots of people, including lots of Christians, who think, “I’m a pretty good person, better than a lot of people I see around me. I haven’t been arrested, I recycle, I don’t drink (much), I give to beggars (occasionally), people like me.” On the standards of the world, they are right. But on the standards of God, they fall short. Jesus told this story (Luke 18:10):
Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee [an outwardly pious man] and the other a tax collector [a despised collaborator with the Roman occupation troops]. The Pharisee, standing by himself, was praying thus, “God, I thank you that I am not like other people: thieves, rogues, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week, I give a tenth of all my income.” But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even look up to heaven, but was beating his breast and saying, “God, be merciful to me a sinner!” I tell you, this man went down to his home justified, rather than the other, for all who exalt themselves will be humbled, but all who humble themselves will be exalted.
The Pharisee thought he was doing all he needed to do, and he was in danger of adding pride to his other sins. The tax collector knew he was in trouble. Jesus’ point is that everyone is in trouble, everyone falls short of God’s perfect standard. Even Jesus’ closest followers asked, “Then who can be saved?” (Matthew 19:25). Jesus’ answer is remarkable (Matthew 19:26): “For mortals it is impossible, but for God all things are possible.”
God’s standard is perfection, and none of us measures up. We are all in trouble and it is impossible for us to save ourselves. God could do it if he wanted to, but does he want to? Yes! That is why Jesus came to us. Next time you see one of those “John 3:16” signs at a sporting event, remember that the Gospel of John says this, quoting Jesus: “God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.” When Jesus says that God “gave” his only son, he means that he came to earth to die for our sins, to take the punishment (death and separation from God) that was rightfully ours.
Several things follow. There are no minor sins. All sins are a big deal and they separate us from God. We need to recognize this and, like the tax collector, humbly throw ourselves on God’s mercy, remembering with gratitude Jesus’ sacrifice of himself for us.
Remember that serious sin you committed, it might have been last week or years ago? You lied, or cheated, or stole, or ignored someone in need, or maybe did something worse. You would never tell anyone about it, but it sits there in your memory. There is no way to go back and make things right, and you can’t forgive yourself. Here is some really good news: God wants to forgive you and he offers forgiveness, even for that secret sin. All you need to do is to trust in Jesus and say, “God, be merciful to me a sinner!” This is not a magical incantation, it is taking advantage of God’s own self-sacrifice in the way that God intends.
At St. Barnabas, we say every Sunday:
Almighty God, Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, Maker of all things, judge of all men, we acknowledge and bewail our manifold sins and wickedness, which we from time to time most grievously have committed, by thought, word, and deed, against thy divine majesty, provoking most justly thy wrath and indignation against us. We do earnestly repent and are heartily sorry for these our misdoings. The remembrance of them is grievous unto us, the burden of them is intolerable. Have mercy upon us, have mercy upon us most merciful Father. For thy Son our Lord Jesus Christ’s sake, forgive us all that is past, and grant that we may ever hereafter serve and please thee in newness of life, to the honor and glory of thy name, through Jesus Christ our Lord. (1928 B.C.P.)
This summarizes what was said above: all sins are serious, we are in trouble and can’t help ourselves, but we humble ourselves and, trusting in the sacrifice of Jesus, ask for forgiveness. Do you need forgiveness in your life? Join us and find out the joy you can have when you find out you are forgiven by God!
Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. (Gospel of Luke 18:10 ESV)