Realized no internet access Monday, so here it is today instead….
In Friday’s post, I asked “What makes sin “sin” for God”? In sum, I stated that the answer was not because sin “destroys relationships”, but because sin was unbelief and unholiness (where holiness = the imitation, born of love and filial fear, of God’s designs, desires, thoughts, words and deeds)
One of the problems with the first answer by itself is that a relationship’s existence is not the indicator of the absence of sin. Relationships can and do exist and abound where sin abounds. Although God’s love makes all things in creation possible, from a human perspective all relationships – even harmonious ones – are not necessarily based on love. For example, we all know of relationships that are harmonious – perhaps in working towards a common goal – but are still “strictly professional” (think of an orchestra). Further, on a smaller scale, some harmony can be attained even though simple notions like the one expressed in this picture (assuming some forgiveness!).
- Still – what about those relationships that are based on love? What about the two non-Christians who fall in love? Or even the worldly caddy who really does care about the golfer he makes big money from?
Do we not all live and move and have our being in God? Does Paul not say God fills the hearts of even pagans with joy (Acts 14)? So, if this is the case, what could be wrong, or incomplete, about such love? If we changed a) above to “it destroys loving personal relationships”, might that make it an answer worthy to be chosen?
I think we must say “no” here as well, because we are in part talking about a “first article” kind of love – i.e. love that is a residue or continual fallout from creation itself, by the Creator who is love. This kind of love for neighbor, although something you certainly would like to have in a neighbor (as opposed to the alternatives!), is severely deficient because a) it is not bolstered and informed by an underlying love for the Triune God, and hence its ultimate hope and expression is not the salvation of the whole world – i.e. people’s rescue and growth in eternal life, that is, knowing God through His Son, Jesus Christ (John 17:3), and b) a lack of purity or holiness in fulfilling this love – which of course is supposed to flow through us unhindered from God and for our neighbor.
The believer in Christ, on the other hand, lacks the love they should have in the sense of b) above (not a) But they know God as He reveals Himself to us in Christ, that is, as the friend of sinners who do not love as they ought.
But what if we changed a) above to “it destroys the believer’s relationship with God – and may drive the unbeliever further from Him”. Perhaps this is the simple definition to serve us?
Maybe. But what unforeseen dangers might lie within such a definition? For example, what should we say to a man who feels his relationships are healthy and strong and who is sure he trusts in Jesus Christ, but does not seem to call “sin” what Scripture calls sin? What if he is content “killing” his old Adam – keeping his flesh down – only by engaging in the good deeds he is convinced are helpful to his neighbor (perhaps to him, the ethics of Aristotle or Kant, for example, is more or less synonymous with “God’s Law”)? What do we do if such a person insists that they, being baptized, are in Christ and have no need of warning or correction?
Problem, right? Do not Paul’s words of warning about “another Jesus” (see II Cor. 11) see particularly appropriate here?
Therefore, why not say, in sum, “our relationship with God is based upon the essential righteousness of Christ, sacrificed for us. Within that relationship, God would make us, by His Holy Spirit, also essentially righteous [where we reflect the love of Christ (God)]. This work He begins in our baptisms and brings to a completion in the resurrection.” (a quote from my pastor, who I have “parroted” a bit in this post!)
When we view things this way, we reinforce the need to discuss more specifically what sin looks like. And I think this means that it will be more difficult to avoid reflecting on and discussing our understandings of the objective nature of God’s revealed Word to us.
Yes, modern philosophers may reject formal “substance ontologies” (i.e. the “nature” or “essence” of things). But is modern man incapable of understanding such ideas? I seriously doubt that.