I once asked a group of Christian college students if there was any sin we could commit, for which there would be no negative consequences to them, in this life. (Let’s set aside the fact that God knows everything and will judge all humans someday)
“Lying. If I tell a lie and no one ever finds out, I can get away with it, without any consequences in this life,” one guy answered confidently.
“Are you sure?” I responded. “When I’ve lied in the past, and have ‘gotten away with it,’ it emboldens me to lie again. People become known as liars, not because they’ve told just one lie in their life, but because they’ve developed the habit of lying, that began with an undiscovered lie, or lies. There are always consequences for sin, in this life.”
You just have to wonder if God sometimes scratches his head in disbelief, that we’d actually think we can get away with sin. Now, to be fair, there are some good reasons why we might get that impression, so let’s explore a few of them. But first, a word about moral laws to lay the foundation.
A few months ago, I sat with a 40 something Christian guy, successful in every way the world considers successful. He and his wife have been married for fifteen years and have four children, the guy wants out. He’s not happy. He doesn’t feel anything anymore for his wife. They fight all the time.
After hearing their situation, its apparent, he has no biblical basis for a divorce. Trust me, he’s been looking with pharisaical ferver to find a biblical “out” and can’t find one. But he thinks he has a trump card, and here it comes; “but doesn’t God want me to be happy?”
“Not if you’re disobedient,” I responded. This surprises him. And it always surprises me, that Christians are surprised by my answer. So, why is that?
It’s been my observation that all of us, Christians and non-Christians alike, “rank” sins. And I don’t know if you’ve ever thought about it, but we Christians generally tend to rank at the top, the sins of others, rather than our own.
So, the gossip and the legalist notice the pastor is getting liberal. The pastor’s wife who struggles with envy, judges those in the church with money. Responsible, but stingy Christians are quick to remind everyone that it’s the poor and the lazy, who are being ruined by the welfare system.
And, conservative evangelicals have this in common; they all rank the big three, worst of all – pro-choice, gays and liberals. Thank heavens for them, or we’d never get out of bed in the morning with our guilt!
Ironically, Jesus is far more condemning of what some Christians tend to think of as soft sins or the “misdemeanor sins” of pride, materialism, failing to care for the poor, religious hypocrisy and failure to forgive generously, than he is of what we often think of as “felony sins.” Felony sins, like adultery, divorce, pornography, alcoholism or homosexuality.
So here’s what I think: To lessen our guilt, we Christians tend to vilify the sins we’re least likely to commit ourselves.
This is the second blog in a series entitled, Playing King of the Mountain with God. We’re exploring why we Christians would risk disobeying God, which is in effect, saying to him, “ I know what’s best for me.” It’s an attempt to be co-king at least.
When I came to faith over 30 years ago, I was told that because of the cross, all my sins, past, present and future were now forgiven. I’m saved, so I’m safe from the judgment. Putting it crassly, I figured, “because of Jesus, God the Father can no longer touch me!”
Oddly, that notion led me in two opposite directions, almost simultaneously. In the same day, I’d feel such gratitude to Jesus, for my salvation that I literally burst into tears with joy. An hour latter I’d do or think some sinful thing, generally with some guilt, but no real fear of God, because his love for me was “unconditional.”
Is God’s Love Unconditional?
“God’s love for us is unconditional. It never changes regardless of what we do or don’t do.” I recently heard a pastor I respect a lot make that statement on the radio, and I’ve heard variations of it all my Christian life. But is it true?
I had the same misgivings when I read this quote from the bestselling book, Jesus Calling. (A book I do like it by the way.) Here’s a portion of the reading for December 26. In it, the author assumes the voices of Jesus and says, “I am the Gift that continuously gives – bounteously, with no strings attached. Unconditional love is such a radical concept that even my most devoted followers fail to grasp it fully. Absolutely nothing in heaven or on earth can cause me to stop loving you. You may feel more loved when you are performing according to your expectations. But my love for you is perfect; therefore it is not subject to variation.”
Both of these quotes leave the distinct impression that God doesn’t love us or like us any differently whether we’re good or bad. Is that really true? If it is, it may be an explanation why so many Christians are behaving badly – thankful for God’s love, but without any fear of him at all.
Is that really the God of the Bible?