Sunday, March 7, 2010

Seriousness of sin

Before I start this post on the seriousness of sin, I want to say three things.

1. We are all sinners.
2. Sinners need love and compassion.
3. We are all sinners.

So this post is not going to be about pointing fingers and judging people. That’s never been my approach and I’m not about to start now. It is, however, about recognising that sin is serious. And we do nobody any favours when we pretend that it isn’t.

Many Christians lean towards the love and compassion approach to Christianity. I have nothing against this. I’m all for love and compassion. I believe if everyone had more love and compassion in their lives, the world would be a better place.

When people sin, they do one of two things. They either feel sorrow for it or they don’t. If they don’t feel sorrow, generally nothing anyone says is going to make them feel sorrow. If they do, they feel bad enough on their own, without having other people make them feel worse.

But the love and compassion we extend to others should not involve saying that what they have done is quite okay.

Well, not always. Sometimes people feel bad about something when they really have no need to. Sometimes they exaggerate what they have done wrong and have an unhealthy sense of guilt. And so the best thing is often to say, ‘You know something, what you did wasn’t really that bad.’

When someone feels upset about something, it’s normal to want to make them feel better. It’s the loving and compassionate thing to do. But sometimes what we say to ‘make someone feel better’ doesn’t line up with God’s view of sin. The whole, ‘Well maybe you did have an affair with your husband’s best friend. But lots of people have affairs nowadays’ kind of approach.

And sometimes people don’t need to feel better. Their sorrow for sin is a good thing. It’s what leads to repentance and submission to God’s will. Sometimes making someone feel better is the worst thing you could do for them.

In the beginning I listed three points. Okay, it was more like two. The first and third point was that we are all sinners. Remembering this should help prevent us becoming too judgemental. But it should never lead to a downplaying of sin.

Sometimes the truth that we are all sinners morphs into a ‘We are all sinners, so sin doesn’t really matter’ kind of attitude. ‘After all, what is one sin amongst so many?’ I’ve had someone say to me, ‘Do you honestly think God is going to care if you do this, when there are so many people doing much worse things?’

Short answer, yes. Because sin does matter.

Sin is not like littering. You know how sometimes you’re in a public place, and there’s rubbish everywhere. You kind of look at your empty chip packet or soft drink can and go, ‘I should just toss it on the ground. It’s not going to make any difference. There’s so much rubbish here already.’

Well sin is not like that. Sin is not just one tiny spec in a sin-filled world, hardly noticeable from God’s perspective. Each sin is important. Each sin is an offence against God.

I was praying in Church the other day, looking at the wooden carving of Jesus’ crucifixion, thinking about how He died for our sins. And I thought I can never fully grasp that. My mind can never capture the entirety of what that means. I know Jesus died for the sins of the whole world. And it’s been repeated so often it almost sounds like a cliché. Which is sad in itself, really. But Jesus dying for the sins of the whole world is such a staggering idea. I can’t even begin to appreciate how truly astounding it is.

So I stopped thinking about how Jesus died for our sins and started thinking about how he died for my sins. Not from the point of view that He died just for me. But from the point of view that my sins put him there. My sins nailed God to the cross. If I was the only person in the world, or if I was the only sinner in the world and everyone else was perfect, Jesus would have still been crucified. He would still have undergone unimaginable agony. The suffering that my sins alone would have caused him are immense.

I can’t even grasp that. I will never fully understand just how much he suffered for my sins. And I will never be as thankful for it as I should be.

Perhaps it’s better that way. Perhaps if I did understand and appreciate it properly, I would never get off my knees.

Jesus Christ had love and compassion. Jesus Christ who died on a cross, in agony, suffering for what we have done, paying the price for our sins.

(Image details: Basilique Saint-Quentin, France - Crucifixion)


  1. Jesus was so full of compassion for all humankind.The weak,the sinner,the cheaters,and all who would go His way.He was tough with the Pharisees as he knew right well that they were trying to block Him in every way.Still, Joseph and Nicodemus from their ranks followed Jesus.

  2. Hi Anonymous,

    Thanks for your comments. Maybe one of the reasons Joseph and Nicodemus did end up following Jesus was become Jesus was tough on them. It made them rethink what they were doing and how religious they truly were.

    The people who believe they have it all figured out and are already doing everything right probably need a bit of criticism now and again.




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