You are not God
You are not God.
That is the declaration that sin makes, yet somehow we seem to have lost that concept. Modern understandings of sin tend to fall on or near one of two extremes.
The first extreme is growing in popularity but is still the most easily dismissed. That is the view that there is no sin. This view is usually held by people who are more “progressive” or “liberal,” labels which they carry proudly. They tend to view sin as an archaic concept from an ancient time of absolutes. Adherents to this idea tend to argue that “good” and “bad” are relative. However the hypocrisy and ultimate defeat of this theory is that even the staunchest “live and let live” liberal has in their mind a list of sins, some of which are unforgivable. Examples may include oppression, pedophilia, rape, etc. I have still yet to find a person who truly holds to this view, even if they idealize it.
The more insidious misapplication of sin is when people think of sin as a heavenly list of dos and don’ts. This view is often held by self-identifying “conservatives.” These people believe that committing one of these forbidden acts earns a person a one way ticket to Hell. Conversely, there are things that one must do in order to avoid hell. People create lists which they believe are universally applicable in all places and every situation. Ironically, these lists vary from one person to the next, casting doubt on the legitimacy of any particular list. Often using the Bible as source material, they tend to handpick certain “sins” (to outsiders this will appear random in nature) and elevate them to special pinnacle of evil. The sins chosen for this tend to be plucked from the Bible without any regard for historical or cultural context, yet tend to conform more to the culture and context of the modern individual creating the list. Nuances such as “good and vs holy and common” or “biblical Israel vs all peoples,” tend to never even be considered. Examples in the United States include Christians’ opposition to Capitalism in the 19th century, and seeming reversal to opposition to any hint of Socialism in the 21st, the mid 20th century war on racial integration and mixed-race marriage. and most recently the obsession with what civil rights should be granted or withheld from homosexuals. In every aforementioned instance, biblical verses were found to support their position, and verses that opposed such views completely dismissed.
Both of these views have something in common. Both are used to declare that the self is God. Let me explain. In the first view, the self is allowed to view the entirety of the world and declare that there is nothing morally wrong (please remember I stated that I don’t believe anyone actually holds this view). In the second view, the self is allowed to declare what is and is not acceptable, and clothe that list in divine authority. In both these instances, humility has been removed and there is no room left for the divine.
The Christian Bible does not speak of sin this way. Jesus repeatedly told his followers and detractors that human effort is never sufficient and often the most religiously “law-abiding” people are the ones furthest from God. See how Jesus condemns the publicly righteous man who “thanks” God he is so able to be sinless, in favor of the humble sinner who recognizes his need for a savior. One man judges himself as only God can, and judges himself great. He has deluded himself into believing that he is divine, that he is perfect. The other man is humbled by sin, does not condemn others because he knows he has earned plenty of condemnation himself.
After Jesus, the Apostle Paul speaks of the universality of sin, placing us all in the same “celestial boat.” James, the brother of Jesus, reminds the church that if they break one part of God’s Law, they have broken it all, because the same God who gave one law, gave us the other. Yet today the glutton condemns the adulterer, and the greedy condemns the thief. In their minds their sin is of lesser severity. The trouble is only God can make that judgement, and they of course are not God.
Jesus said the whole Law of God is built upon the command to love God with your whole being, and love everyone else as much as yourself. All sin is a failure to do this. To use the concept of sin to degrade others is to sin against the very law you are invoking.
Sin has one purpose, and that is to loudly declare that we are not God. We are far from perfect. We often fight against perfection that we encounter. Sin is powerful in that it affects every person on earth. You cannot rank sinners. Osama Bin Laden and Adolf Hitler are not worse than you, they just had more opportunity and motivation.
To walk around as if you are better than anyone is to declare to God that your sins don’t count as much as the next guy’s. To make that declaration you must be only one of two things: God or an imposter. You are not God.