Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Sin and Immortality, Part 2

Sin is Suicide

Once we understand that our life, very literally, consists of communion in God’s own Life, then we are in a position to understand that death is being outside of communion in God’s Life. The soul, separate from God, is like a fish out of water, or a cut flower: not quite dead yet, but already dying. Eventually the dying soul separates from its body and the body, too, dies.

That is why every form of rejecting God is labeled, “sin.” To reject God is not sinful because His feelings are hurt; it isn’t as though His pride were wounded or His dignity insulted; God is far above all such self-serving concerns. Instead, to reject God is sinful because to reject God is to reject Life, His Life, the only Life there is or ever was. Sin is self-destruction. Sin is the destruction of God's handiwork.

To say “sin causes death” is a bit like saying headache causes pain. A headache is pain. Sin is death. Every sin is some form of rebellion, alienation, separation from God. And separation from God is the very definition of death. To sin is to cut your lifeline, to unplug your life support system, to trash your relationship with God, Who is your Life.

Sin, like jumping off a skyscraper, kills us all by itself, even if we don’t actually die until a bit later, when we hit the ground. Sin is self-punishing, destroying us body and soul, although often we do not notice the self-inflicted damage until it becomes full-blown death: how hardened our hearts are becoming; how eroded, our character; how false, our whole being. We do notice how lonely we are, how alienated and empty, but we fail to connect the dots and see how we are punishing ourselves. It is the lack of this insight that allows people to suppose there is some need for God to add yet more misery to our already miserable state, or to kill the already dying.

Death is not a response by God to sin, but is an aspect of sin itself. God, the Author of Life, did not institute death as a punishment. The murderer of mankind is and always was satan, not God. (John 8:44) He kills us by inducing us to kill ourselves; that is, to sin. Sin is suicide, unassisted suicide. Or at least it is unassisted by God.

It’s true that when God wanted to reveal to His people that there is a connection between sin and death, He put it into legal terms, offense and punishment. But we believe He did this in great and gracious condescension to stiff-necked and hard-hearted Israel. He put the matter in terms they could understand, who were not very spiritual-minded but were all too familiar with the concept of revenge. It was impossible, at that stage of spiritual development, for people to understand that sin in and of itself is lethal, before we even get around to considering God’s response to it. Yet that fact existed from the beginning, before the Mosaic Law. As St. Paul points out in Romans 5, during the time between Adam and Moses, there was no transgression similar to Adam’s (no transgression of any direct commandment), yet sin still killed everyone. And sin killed everyone, he says, even though sin was not being imputed. This means something else was going on, not God killing people as punishment. It means sin kills us unilaterally, without any help from God.

We do not worship some beastly deity who retaliates against sinners by killing them. Instead, sin kills automatically because to sin is to make oneself incompatible with God. The only way God could make sin non-lethal would be by making His own Life compatible with wickedness. Never going to happen! He remains holy and good; He remains the only Immortality; and if we would not die, we must tap into His Life, must be in communion with Him. It is not God who kills, but precisely the opposite: the lack of God. (God but determines the timing of our dying, according to what is best.)

The wages of sin is death
but the gift of God [is] eternal life
through Jesus Christ our Lord.
(Romans 6:23)

Sin pays us death; God, by contrast, gives us eternal life.

Sin pays us wages we earned; God gives us eternal life we did not earn.

This is the revelation we have in Christ.

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2 comments:

JTKlopcic said...

Again, you put it so succinctly, but so well said! If only everyone would read this post and ponder its contents.

s-p said...

Excellent. The first time I realized "who pays the wages of sin" I was floored. How did I miss that for 25 years...