What About Sin?
We were all sitting around drinking magic bean juice and talking about God. It was a rainy coffee shop day.
“What about sin?” she interrupted rather forcefully.
I was sharing with about ten college students on the perfection of our Father’s love. She had started to get jittery when I began discussing how we are prone to love. I thought it was the coffee, but it wasn’t.
“What about sin?” I queried.
“Are you suggesting we can’t sin?” she asked incredulously.
“No,” I responded.
“Sin has consequences! You can’t just ignore it! If you smoke, don’t be shocked when you get cancer!” She was practically yelling at this point.
I don’t know why she picked smoking as an example for sin. I think she was just so upset about my seemingly unconcerned inattention to the issue of sin that she had to say something, anything… and smoking was the winner.
But her point stood: “For the wages of sin is death…” (Rom. 6:23). It says so in my Bible and in hers. And death is a serious problem.
“I am not ignoring sin,” I responded. “I am celebrating the absolute power of mercy and grace. I am not suggesting that there are no consequences or that lives aren’t destroyed by sin. But I am suggesting that love trumps every need. I am not proposing that behavior isn’t important, but I am proposing that behavior follows identity. I am not focused on sin because sin is no longer the point; it hasn’t been for two thousand years. The point is life.”
It’s very true: “For the wages of sin is death… but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom. 6:23).
That “but” is the game changer. It transitions our story, it changes the focus from law to love, judgment to mercy and grace, and death to life.
A Series of Coffee Shop Adventures. That would have been a good title for most of my writings. By now some of you might think my life revolves around coffee and that’s not far from the truth…
I was sitting at a Starbucks, happily drinking magic bean juice with a pastor friend. We were talking about mercy and grace and what Jesus’s death and resurrection meant for our new nature when he pointedly asked me a question: “Are you saying you can go a day without sinning?” Hidden behind the healing sounds of pulled espresso shots and milk steaming, Mumford & Sons was setting the mood:
“Love; it will not betray you,
Dismay or enslave you, it will set you free,
Be more like the man you were meant to be.”
Without hesitation I answered his question, “I haven’t thought about it, but I sure hope so.”
Oh, man! The look on his face…you would have thought I’d told him I was the love child of Hitler and Bin Laden.
Before his shock could turn to anger, I said, “I think your question is flawed—the premise is wrong. Your question suggests that the point of my life is to not sin. But I believe the point of my life is to know His love and become transformed. I am not saying I can’t sin, I am not even saying I haven’t sinned today, I’m just saying that it’s the wrong focus.”
Then I told him the same Jesus story I had shared months earlier at another coffee shop with some college students, one who was particularity concerned about smoking.
Jesus was walking down the street with His disciples when they came across a blind fella. His disciples asked,
“Rabbi, who sinned: this man or his parents, causing him to be born blind?”
Jesus said, “You’re asking the wrong question. You’re looking for someone to blame. There is no such cause-effect here. Look instead for what God can do…” (John 9:1-3 MSG).
It wasn’t that Jesus didn’t acknowledge sin; He just knew that the answer to the issue of sin didn’t lie in the study of who sinned, but in a revelation of Dad.
The New International Version reads, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life.”
I’m convinced that Jesus sees every question raised by sin and death as an opportunity for love to be revealed. Every tragedy and every bondage is an opportunity for the Father’s love to trump need.
Please understand me: Jesus was not saying that sin isn’t a problem or that it doesn’t lead to death. Nor was He suggesting that the blind fella had lived a perfect life or that his parents hadn’t fallen short. He was simply saying that the focus is no longer on who had sinned, but instead on “Who loves you?” That’s right—God.
Everyone knows sin is a problem. The handful of people with Jesus and the millions who have read this story since know that the blind fella and his parents weren’t without sin. More than likely, they had even sinned that day. But Jesus wasn’t focused on the problem. He was the living, walking, talking measureless solution.
Think about it like this: Adam and Eve were both born perfect. As perfect, I imagine they had perfect 20/20 vision. The point is that we were created to see, it’s in our original design. Blindness is the result of the fall. It didn’t exist before sin and death entered the world.
For the blind fella, the result of sin in the world was devastating. In the day and culture he lived, blindness was directly connected to sin. In the day and culture he lived, blindness was a shame that stranded you as a hopeless beggar. Blindness was a life-and-death problem.
The question of sin dominated the reality and conversation of Jesus’s day. It was the focus, it was the problem, and it was what lead to the sense of separation from our Father’s always-good transforming love.
Unfortunately, even after Jesus died and rose, even after Jesus declared, “It is finished,” even after the veil was torn, even after we have been seated with Him in heavenly places to live from the measureless, even after we have been invited to change the focus, most believers still want to know who sinned so they can pin the tail on the appropriate donkey.
For some reason, we like that pinning stuff…
Jason Clark is a writer, speaker and lead communicator at A Family Story ministries. His mission is to encourage sons and daughters to grow sure in the love of an always-good heavenly Father. He and his wife, Karen, live in North Carolina with their three children.
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