Jesus said, “You must be born again.” John 3:3
Why can’t God just forgive us and be done with it?
I have to admit, I have put this off for months. It’s been nagging at me since September, now here it is, almost Christmas. All I do for this blog is just read scripture and write down my thoughts, so why is this so much harder than any other post? Maybe because that pesky question of forgiveness is what the entire Bible is all about?
Our common ancestors, Adam and Eve, were given Paradise and completely screwed it up by the third chapter of the first book of the Bible. I found this hard to understand when I was a little kid reading my Children’s Bible for the first time. Why was eating some fruit so terrible? It sounds silly, even comical. They didn’t kill anybody, right? Sure, God told them not to do it. But they were sorry afterwards, weren’t they? Why didn’t he just forgive them and let everything get back to normal? He’s a loving God, right? Why kick them out of the Garden and curse them (and us)? That just seems cruel.
James 2:10 says, “For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it.” But there are over 600 laws in the Old Testament! Who then has a chance? It isn’t fair! Is it?
Theologians, atheists and everybody and their grandma who’ve ever given any thought at all to the God of the Bible wonder about this sooner or later. I’ve read a lot about it, and heard a lot of scholars talk. I’ve read the Bible myself and prayed over it, gotten angry over it, and questioned God over it. I’ve had to do a lot of soul-searching, examining choices I’ve made and wondering about the effects I’ve had on other people. The conclusion I’ve come to is there is no such thing as a sin that’s “no big deal.” It’s not possible.
The above verse in James is hard to grasp for most of us. For myself, at least. Is God really saying that if you broke one point of the law you’ve broken all of it? So, me snapping at that clerk in the store and making her cry condemns me just as much as Hitler slaughtering 6 million Jews?
Yes . . . and here are just a few reasons why I believe it:
1. In the story of the rich man and Lazarus in Luke Chapter 16, the guy in hell wants Lazarus to bring him some water. But Abraham tells him “…between us and you a great chasm has been fixed, so that those who want to go from here to you cannot, nor can anyone cross over from there to us.” A lot of Bible teachers believe this is a story of actual people and not a parable. So if we assume that there is a real chasm between heaven and hell, then the question is how and why did it get there. I think the moment Adam and Eve bit the forbidden fruit, they were on the rich man’s side of the chasm. They rejected God because they rebelled against the only law He gave them. They thought it was more prudent to listen to a snake than to listen to the voice of God. And from then on they were separated from God, with no way to get back to Him. All because they ate a piece of fruit. It wasn’t a “little thing,” after all.
2. God gave mankind authority over all the earth in Genesis 1:28: “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground.” But when they listened to the devil’s lies instead of to God, they handed that authority over to Satan, thus becoming the servants of Satan (sin/rebellion/death). Remember when Satan tempted Jesus he said, “I will give you all their [the earthly kingdoms’] authority and splendor, for it has been given to me, and I can give it to anyone I want to.” (Luke 4:6). Jesus called Satan the “prince of this world” in John 12:31.
(Note: Satan doesn’t own this world and he isn’t the supreme ruler. God has always had that authority. “To the LORD your God belong the heavens, even the highest heavens, the earth and everything in it.” – Deuteronomy 10:14. It’s kind of like God owning a building, giving the superintendent’s keys to Adam and Eve, then they give those keys to Satan. Satan may be able to run all over the building for now, but he doesn’t own it and he never will.)
3. When Adam and Eve rejected God’s authority by eating the fruit, they died. Their spirits were dead from that day on, and their bodies started on the road to decay and death. What God told them in Genesis 2:17, “…you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die,” was the truth. So if He had just said, “oh, well, you silly kids, you shouldn’t have but I guess I’ll let it slide this time,” then He would have been a liar and a fool and therefore not someone worthy of our worship and our trust.
4. The sin is laid on Adam’s shoulders, not Eve’s, even though she ate first. There are debates on this but I think it was because Adam was the head of the house. It sounds like he was right there when the snake was talking to Eve. He had the authority to order the snake to be quiet, but he didn’t. He could have corrected Eve when she misquoted God’s command, but he didn’t. He could have knocked the fruit out of her hand, but he didn’t. He could have refused the fruit when she offered it to him, but he didn’t. Eve was deceived; Adam made a deliberate, conscious choice to reject God. We are all his descendants and so we all inherit his nature—the nature of a dead spirit that is enslaved to sin. All the pain, suffering, greed and hate that we call history happened because of the choice that one man, the ancestor of all of us, made one day thousands of years ago.
The first sin recorded in the Bible was eating a piece of fruit.
The second was murder.
No small sin.
(This isn’t my original thought; I’ve heard it many times but it makes sense and is in perfect alignment with the Bible) If God is perfect, then he can’t just sweep sin — any sin — under the rug. Because if He does that, then He is not a just God. Nor would He be a loving God, if you think about it. If a drunk driver ran me over and crippled me for life, I would want justice. That driver knew it was wrong and dangerous to drink and drive but he did it anyway. His choice ruined the rest of my life. I would cry out for justice. When the case came to court, if the judge said to the drunk driver, “I forgive you. Cased dismissed,” he might be very merciful and kind toward the driver but he wouldn’t be fair or kind to ME.
And think about eternity. God’s kingdom is absolutely perfect. It is a place of perfect love, joy, peace, beauty, and community among all its inhabitants. I think it is a place that almost all of us desperately long for in our hearts. So what if God swept just one sin under the rug and it was never dealt with? Just one little thing, say one person who occasionally gossips about other people. How long would it take for that one little thing to destroy all of Heaven and turn it into the same cesspool we’ve turned Earth into? Remember, Adam and Eve snacked on some forbidden fruit, and their son murdered his own brother. God absolutely cannot allow even the smallest taint of sin to go undealt with .
Paul warned the people of Corinth, “Don’t you know that a little yeast works through the whole batch of dough?” Sin MUST be dealt with, or it will grow like the yeast in bread dough and infest everything.
It’s no good trying to deal with it ourselves. Remember that chasm that has been fixed between hell and Heaven. As sinners we are on the wrong side of that chasm. What can we do to fill the abyss so we can cross over? It’s eternally deep. What are our “good deeds” worth? They are a joke. Most of our works are selfishly motivated anyway, if we are honest with ourselves. And even the most noble thing a person can do, which is to die to save someone else, can’t fill that hole because we are dead sinners trying to save other dead sinners.
No man can redeem the life of another or give to God a ransom for him—
The ransom for a life is costly,
No payment is ever enough—
That he should live on forever and not see decay.
– Psalm 49:7-9
We sin every single day and we know it. Even if we really, really don’t want to. That cruel remark slips from our lips, that lustful thought enters our head, that little thing is just sitting there for us to steal, that little white lie is so easy to say….I didn’t mean it! I’m sorry! I’ll do better tomorrow! But tomorrow comes and we don’t do better. We don’t fill that chasm, we just keep digging it deeper and deeper. We are lost. We are in that rich man’s same hell and we are as hopeless as he is to ever get out of it.
UNLESS . . . . .