Sin

By Gericke Potgieter

The context of sin and a definition of truth
I often hear comments on sin flying about in discussion pertaining to religion. Atheists like asking Christians whether certain actions are sinful or not, carefully choosing borderline cases such as masturbation. So now I shall venture to try and put the whole concept of sin into context. To start off, and in keeping to my previous article on assumptions, one needs to accept that the idea of sin is part of all faiths. It is a faith related precept that there is good and there is bad. Oddly enough, there are quite a number of atheists who theorize that sin is as made up as God. Yet they still adhere to the concept of morality, which is the same notion, but by a different name. All of mankind has to some degree a concept of good and bad. Sin in reference to the way Christians see it also has a strange history that mixes up the truth about sin and the habits of old religions. What I mean by this is that sin is something that Christians are free of through their life in Jesus, yet many churches retain the character of old religions that use sin as a "hanging sword". They do this by picking up on all sorts of rules and regulations - all from the bible, and applying them as strict law or strong norms. So what is the truth about sin? Is masturbation indeed sin? Is it the thoughts that go along with it that is sinful? Is it a sin to take a ring from a bathroom when you sort-of know somebody will come back for it? Finder’s keeper’s right? In the bible God gave Moses the law. Long story short nobody (not even David...what am I saying, especially not David) kept to the law entirely. Nobody is capable of doing so. But why then did God give the law? My personal opinion is that, as with most things people get their grubby little intellects on, we misunderstood God' purpose s with the law. Just as importantly, the law, of which the infamous Ten Commandments were the base, had its true application for the Hebrew nation trekking across the desert. It was a handbook for staying strong and healthy in a very difficult period for the Jewish nation. All of the commandments make perfect sense when you consider the difficulty the leadership of Israel faced with a rowdy bunch of people who easily forsook their God in favour of a golden calf. Whether a misunderstanding/misapplication or not, the fact remains that instead of giving people the freedom they need, the law was turned into something that bound people and inherently made them guilty by mere existence. God didn' want this - instead of catching a glimpse into the true nature of the Father, people took the laws and t understood God to be a vengeful and judgmental being. This brought an even greater and ever widening gap between the Father and His beloved children. Like the Father He is, He decided to fix things and show His children that there is a way to live in complete freedom. God gave us Jesus - the first man to have a complete relationship with God. Jesus'message was clear - He is the Light and the Truth and the Way, nobody gets to the Father except through Him. How could this possibly mean freedom? How does it make any sense that we are not free to choose our own gods? Well, we are, we always have a choice whether we want to take part in and build a relationship with the Father, or serve another god. This may seem contradictory, but this is where the whole concept of "truth" comes in. The question isn'whether t

we have a choice; the question is whether our choice is the truth. In order to understand this there is a very important distinction to make between Actuality, Reality and Truth. Actuality refers to the actual existence of things. Like the chair I am sitting on, the keyboard I am typing on and so forth. Things exist and they exist completely. Human beings do not have the ability or capacity to completely describe or understand actuality. If we did then science would have died a long time ago. Try describing something silly as a paper clip. You will soon find that it is possible to describe this paper clip in many volumes of books if you want to do it completely. And you will fail. Reality refers to the human experience - those things that are real to us because we interpreted it as such. Within reality there are frameworks of thought that is built by ever changing contexts that form the content for more contexts. For example, my cellphone is a reality. It fits within the framework of functionality (because I don' t care much for status symbols). Therefore, what I use it for (phoning people) becomes the context of the phone. The act of phoning people has the context of the relationships I have. Each relationship in turn has the context of where I met a person. Each location has a context of its town, its country, its planet. And so forth. What is important is that reality is always the result of interpretation. Then there is the truth. Truth sometimes forms part of our reality and sometimes it doesn' Truth is the integrity t. of our realities as it relates to the very character of creation. To understand what the truth is, we need to look at how creation works. In nature there are endless possibilities. We can see this in the biodiversity of bugs, the unique face of every individual, the path a bolt of lightening takes when it flashes. Nature has no limit in its potential to change. Taking this as a characteristic we can know what truth is by the simple fact that truth brings possibilities. In other words, if you believe the truth, it will set you free. In nature there is a constant battle between life and death. Adapt or die is the maxim we all remember. When a certain plant or animal cannot adapt to its changing environment, it will die off and those things capable of adapting will use it for food. When a plant or animal (i.e. cockroaches, rats and other "pests") adapts well enough it will not only survive, but eventually it will thrive. The battle between life and death is always about "life" beating out death. Things die, but life always seems to triumph. In nature plants and animals that survive do two things, firstly they change themselves or their environments to remove obstacles to their survival and secondly they adapt in a way that keeps them strong and healthy. The second characteristic of the truth lies hidden in this: something that is useful (solves a problem) and constructive (strength and health) is always the truth. In nature not only is there variety, there is also abundance. When a plant or animal adapts properly it will eventually thrive. This abundance is a clear sign of the success of the entity' adaptation. The truth always s results in abundance. Now, this is not abundance in the sense of having a lot of stuff. When applied to us humans, abundance equates to joy. Joy is not that happy feeling either, it is the valuable experiences that we can share with other people. In believing the truth we have an abundance of value! So, the truth sets you free. Freedom brings peace (being able to trust that something is useful and constructive). Peace brings joy.

Life and truth
What does the truth have to do with sin? I want to go back to the character of creation and some Christian assumptions. As Christians we make the assumption that the universe was created by God. We also believe that God' s creation is an expression of Himself. Humans are made "in the image of God" which simply means that the Creator' signature is written into our very DNA. s Creation from the viewpoint of humans has everything to do with life. The context of everything we do has its roots in our innermost question: What is the point of life? When we look at how nature teaches us the character of what truth is, it becomes clear that the point of life is in

fact to become free of that which is opposite to the truth and the consequences thereof (to live). The point of life for us is to become free of the lie and death that results from it. I am going to divert into some science here. I am no expert, but I keep track of various fields of science amongst which is the field of epigenetics. Epigenetics is the scientific field that studies the changes that DNA goes through and how it affects living beings. Recently scientists discovered that the choices we make actually affects the structure of our DNA (http://www.newstarget.com/020068.html). The implication here is that we actually have a choice that affects how strong or weak our own DNA becomes. Good choices = healthy DNA = life. What we can infer from this is that the truth and the lie as we see it in nature, is indeed something that is also to be found in our choices. When we choose the truth we strengthen and thrive; when we choose the lie we grow weak and die. What we know so far is that God gave the law, and mankind proved him(and her)self incapable of following it. Simply put, on our own we cannot become free from the lie that brings death because we don' know HOW to t choose. So what would a good dad do for his child when the kid can' follow the rules? Beat them until they do? Nope, a t good father would lead his kid by setting the example and then taking kiddo' hand and guide them to do the s same. Then "law" becomes "guidance" and this happens purely through the father transferring his valuable experience to his child. How does this happen? Through relationship.

What is the point?
What is mankind to do when they don' know HOW to choose? Nothing, we can do absolutely nothing by t ourselves to fix the problem. We perpetually choose the lie (which is borne from fear) and we are therefore dead by the hand of our own choice. God gave us Jesus because He wanted to lead us in example and then physically take our hands and guide us to choose life over death. God is a very practical Creator after all. What about the people before Jesus? Jesus is an expression of God and so is the Holy Spirit. Al three these expressions are part of the same God. Jesus was God' fix to the whole problem of our interpretation of laws s (and as such the healing of our relationship with Him) and the Spirit is the life God gives us all through Jesus. We learn from the bible that Jesus as the Word of God was there from the very beginning of creation. God spoke and things came into existence. This "speaking" is a different way of saying "expression". The Spirit has always been there and will always be with those who accept the truth that God gives us through His Son. God was always there to be chosen and the bible teaches us the God will be fair to His creation. The Christian God is a God of relationship. Relationship is the only way in which we can truly learn the truth. God' very character is the truth - Jesus said it Himself - "I am the Truth and the Light and the Way". Jesus s brought life by giving us a chance to build a relationship with the Creator of the universe so that we can learn how to make choices that bring about life. We have many many options when it comes to picking a God, but there is only one choice that brings us life, and therefore there is only one choice that is the truth. So where does this leave us with sin? We use the word "sin" to describe two different things namely a way of existence and then certain types of actions. I dislike using the word "sin" to refer to actions because it is misleading. When I use the word "sin" I refer to a life lived outside of a relationship with God. Christians are free from sin. This doesn' mean we don' make choices that lead to death. We do, and we do so t t constantly. The difference is that we make them with God giving us the option to choose differently, and (bonus!) Him helping us if we let Him. So we make mistakes, but if we are sensitive to God' guidance in our lives the s mistakes become lessons that add to our strength. Only God can turn death into life. People are obsessed with sin and hell. The life of a Christian has nothing to do with sin or hell. We are free from this. It has everything to do with the truth and the relationships we build in order to share the abundance of life we receive as a result. Or this is the ideal in any case.

And what about those who do not believe in Jesus or God? Are they sinners? From a Christian perspective, yes. And it is a very sad thing because this means that there are many millions of people who choose death. And God, never changing and ever present, has presented this choice to us all, whether we die as babies or live as hermits in the Himalayas. This discussion also brings us to a better understanding of "heaven" and "hell". People listen up - and I am now writing to both Christians and others - heaven and hell isn' a place. The bible and other religious texts use t places as symbols that portray a certain kind of existence. In all religions heaven is a life WITH God. Life WITHOUT God is hell. It is only in the Christian faith where we find that we do not end up in heaven (being with God) but this is actually where we start. Eternal life and rebirth suddenly makes a whole lot of sense. Is masturbation/smoking/drinking/abusing drugs sin? It depends. The point is not to try and keep God happy by obeying rules - we can' keep to the rules and our resulting anxiety removes us from God. The point is to listen t what God tells you and act accordingly. God doesn' police our thoughts and slap us if we are bad. He looks at t how we live and steers us towards life. It is a relationship after all. The point is to live life.