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Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Punished "by" our Sin #1

We are in a series entitled, “Sin Monkey” at Westwinds. In a nutshell, we are likening sin to a monkey you bring home as a cute, little, harmless pet that grows and takes on a mind of its own—flinging poo at your kids, wrecking the furniture, and eventually ripping people’s faces off (which, by the way, actually happened as you all know . . . about the third of fourth week of our series).

Kill the monkey. Fix the furniture. The mantra.

Last week, we looked at scripture and discussed how we are punished “by” our sin as opposed to being punished “for” it. A few of you asked for some notes so the next series of posts will be bits from that message.

We’ve been watching American Idol. I try not to get sucked in but I do. Every time. This season, there is a very talented young man named Scott MacIntyre. Scott is blind. He’s got a great sense of humor—such as the time Ryan Seacrest went to high-five him and wondered why he didn’t return the favor—he laughs that stuff off. Scott probably won’t go all the way. There are more talented, or at least more popular kids on the show this season.

Now, how weird would it be if Ryan Seacrest put a mic in this guys face and asked him what he “did” to deserve the punishment of blindness. Not only would it be rude, it doesn’t feel right. Something says—that’s not how it happens.

But, that situation and that logic is sometimes how we view sin and the penalty for sin. We somehow think that’s how it works. We do something bad and God brings the pain.

As a matter of fact, in John, chapter 9, we meet a blind man who is much like Scott. Normal, everyday guy. Just blind. Blind from birth. Jesus and the disciples are walking along and one of them asks, “Rabbi, who sinned? This guy or his parents? Because, he was born blind” (ummm, first off, he’s blind, not deaf. He can hear you).

The disciples are curious. It’s a riddle to be solved. They are really just looking for the gossip. They are not motivated by compassion.

Jesus, however, is. He heals him and turns his blindness in to something good. People now have another opportunity to see the healer in action.

Even after the man is dragged in front of the people who hate Jesus and questioned. They cast him out and label him a man who was “steeped in sin at birth.”

The disciples and Jesus accusers demonstrated a basic biblical misunderstanding that still demonstrates itself in contemporary religion. It shows up in early rabbinical writings and may go back to a misunderstanding originating with Moses.

Exodus 34:4-7

4 So Moses chiseled out two stone tablets like the first ones and went up Mount Sinai early in the morning, as the LORD had commanded him; and he carried the two stone tablets in his hands. 5 Then the LORD came down in the cloud and stood there with him and proclaimed his name, the LORD. 6 And he passed in front of Moses, proclaiming, "The LORD, the LORD, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, 7 maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin. Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished; he punishes the children and their children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation."

Their belief was that this meant God was somehow vengeful, mean, we owe him big time, he’s gonna get what’s due him, etc. If that is true, what do we do with the whole setup to this verse that describes God as compassionate, gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin?

We'll come back to this passage in a later post.

The bible takes a different approach to sin than many folks—even Christians who say they are in the know. We might ask how that could be, since our thoughts on sin come from . . . the Bible . . .

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