Apologetics · Christianity · Philosophy

Crime & Punishment – A Dialogue on Sin

I have been seeing a lot of people sharing articles that essentially say that certain things aren’t really sin because how can you take the Bible literally? An example is homosexuality (Leviticus 18:22) and then countering that you would not put to death a man and woman who commit adultery (Leviticus 20:10). Therefore, we cannot take what the Old Testament says as literal for Christianity today.

Obviously, for considering punishment for sin as we see it, I feel the Old Testament – and i believe most of us would feel this way – is certainly out dated. For one, it is no longer culturally acceptable to simply kill people for any and every kind of sexual misconduct. In fact, even in Leviticus it appears that God himself was above killing everyone who committed sexual deeds that he did not approve of: Leviticus 18:24-30 essentially says that Israel is being given the land because the current inhabitants “defiled it,” aka, did the stuff written above in Leviticus 18, and anyone who does these things should be cast out – otherwise the land itself will cast them out. Basically, you lie with a man as with a woman, cut off from the people. You take your sister’s sister’s daughter while someone is still alive (paraphrase), you get cast out. Death, stoning, etc, is not mentioned here. There are many reasons why death would be the punishment for adultery in this time, but no need to go over them in this post, however, culturally, and religiously is because the man who takes another man’s wife to bed is essentially stealing a part (the wife) of that man (the husband) from him –  i.e. Two become one flesh, and all that. Anyways, I digress.

The second reason the Old Testament is out dated for punishment’s sake is the most important one, at least to those of us who proclaim to be believers in Christ, or even more sanctimoniously Christians, is that at the heart of those very beliefs is the Son of God coming to earth to become man and then live a life of forgiveness (he stopped those guys from stoning the adulterer) and then laying down his life on the cross for the forgiveness of sin. Keep in mind – Jesus stops punishment for adultery according to the Old Testament law BEFORE he dies – proclaiming her forgiven and to go and sin no more – John 8:1-11. Further more Jesus says that he does not condemn her. Did she sin, probably, the writer of the Gospel of John certainly thought she did, Jesus certainly behaves like she did. Yet, instead of following the law – stoning her, Jesus fulfills the law – fulfilling being completing the purpose of the law, and he forgives her and commands her to sin no more. Again… keep in mind, this is before the cross. Jesus, the Word (Logos) is the judge – John 12:47-48.

So, where does that leave us? Well, on one hand we have sin, on the other we have punishment. Both are covered within the law, law that we believe as followers of Christ was passed down by God himself. Lucky for us, that Law has been fulfilled in Jesus Christ. This means that our punishment, if we are humble (see James 4, the whole thing deserves and needs to be looked at) ourselves before the Lord, he will exalt you. For the humble, forgiveness is our punishment. Think about it – to be forgiven means we must have sinned. If we are blameless, then we, like Jesus, can be judge ourselves and condemn the world. Yet, we are not, and the punishment that God desires for us, and you guessed it, everyone else, is forgiveness. Again, James 4 is deep – I’d say all of James is, but for this discussion, it serves a great purpose. Now that we are here thought, what about those who do not humble themselves – Philippians 2:10-11 says every knee will bow and confess that Jesus Christ is Lord. What does that mean.. i have not a clue, except for what it says. But I also know that Matthew 23:12 says those who exalt themselves will be made humble, and the humble will be exalted.

This is what sin does, isn’t it? When we sin, we are exalting ourselves – we are putting our wants and desires first, before God, or even before those around us. We are not loving our neighbor, we are not loving God, we are loving ourselves. We are putting ourselves before all else. I believe this is were we will find ourselves humbled. We see it everyday in the media, people who get caught, people who end up dead, people who end of destitute, all because they were selfish. In a way, God didn’t bring this upon them, they did… WOAH… hang on… God didn’t bring punishment upon those who sinned against him… they brought it upon themselves. This is regards, at least, to punishment here on earth. Now you say, hang on, look at the Old Testament – God brought floods, earthquakes, pestilence, and all that. My response is look at the cross – God brought the A-Team. (little nod to my childhood).

Sin is sin – true. Forgiveness is forgiveness – even more true. We are all sinners and have fallen short of the glory of God – The truest truth. Who are we to judge? Who among us is without sin to cast the first stone? Hopefully none of you raise your hands. Saying something isn’t sin because it is in the Old Testament and it is no longer culturally relevant is just a way to make yourself feel better about the doubt you harbor in terms of God and salvation. It is your way to justify your love of people who are homosexual, people who have been divorced and remarried, people who have children out of wedlock, people who are drunkards, people who slander (looking at you meme spreaders and social media peeps). I mean, how can God condemn all these people? The answer is God doesn’t – we do. God forgives, the law has been fulfilled, the punishment called for in the Old Testament has been put into forgiveness – for in forgiveness there is humility and grace. Doesn’t mean these things aren’t sinful, but it doesn’t mean that we stone each other to death either. It means we, as people, have the power to not throw that first stone, or the second and third, but to look at someone and say, God loves you, God is not mad at you, God will not leave you or forsake you, God has forgiven you. Then – go and sin no more, and if you do (cause you will), repent, and humble yourself before God.

Justifying our sin is not necessary. Neither is justifying the sin of others. It only serves the sin itself, and does nothing for healing and does not show love. In the same vein, condemning someone for their sin in effect condemns ourselves, and further, puts ourselves in place of Christ on the cross as judge. Instead, we are to love, we are to forgive – yes, we must speak truth, but not so we turn people away, not so we exalt ourselves above anyone else, for as we know, we will be humbled. Furthermore, it is not us who can say what is sin and what is not, we are not the moral compass for the world, at least not as believers in Christ, it is he, who we believe is seated in Heaven next to his Father, who sits in judgment, through his word, with the cross itself as a way point. It is for this purpose the Spirit was sent, to be an advocate for us and to be a guide for us. It is the Spirit that convicts us within so that we may be humbled, and it is the Spirit in those same moments, that lavishes us with gifts from the Father.

So, to finish up – I believe we need to stop trying to justify sin, and in effect, stop trying to say what isn’t sin when the law of God did not change, but was rather fulfilled in Christ. In the same breath, we must not be the ones holding stones, for we are not blameless either, and instead of pointing out the sins of others, we must humble ourselves and point out our on sins. In this, we must accept forgiveness and grace, therefore walking in love, and in that, show the truth of God’s love for us. We should not cast someone out simply because we do not agree with them or feel they are walking in sin, no, we should love them, and in effect, leave their salvation to God, for it is God who saves and forgives, not us, and certainly not our words and beliefs. If we believe it is up to us to judge and condemn, then we are only exalting ourselves and putting ourselves before God. On the flip side, when we say that A, B and C are not really sins, we are doing the same. Let me ask this, why do we care so much? Is it for our own sake that we condemn others? When we look at prominent people who condemn other people for one thing or another – in effect, exalting themselves, we often find it is the case that they themselves are struggling with the very things they condemn in others. I prefer a turn on an old phrase i heard a lot in the Marine Corps, “Let us go in an love them all, then let God sort them out.”

One more thing – We do not need to worry about what the government of where we live tries to do in terms of judgment. We can feel free to express our beliefs, but we are better doing this in the way we live then through protest and argument. just because the majority of our history has shown a blending of civil and religious practice does not mean that it is right, it simply means the both sides have used each other for gain – as with Constantine with Christianity, and with the Evangelical Right with the Republican Party. We must not fear to be condemned for love, for we will be, both by those who rule over us physically and unfortunately spiritually at times. At the same time, we must not trust civil government to follow the moral compass we are to follow, to do so laughs at the very words of God when we are told that we are not of this world, though we live in it. At the same time, we are to “render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s,” and in turn, render unto God what is his. If the world desires to make legal what we believe is sin, we should not be surprised. If the world desires to make illegal what we believe is right, we should not be surprised. Remember, life and death are found in the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruit (Proverbs 18:21). Likewise, we will be know those who are false by their fruits, and in turn, the world will know us by our fruits as well. (Matthew 7:15-20).

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