The Nature of Sin
The Nature of Sin, a lesson that "eludes" our nation's news agencies (24 Jan 99)
1. Genesis 4:1-9 (RSV)
Now Adam knew Eve his wife, and she conceived and bore Cain, saying, "I have gotten a man with the help of the LORD." And again, she bore his brother Abel. Now Abel was a keeper of sheep, and Cain a tiller of the ground. In the course of time Cain brought to the LORD an offering of the fruit of the ground, and Abel brought of the firstlings of his flock and of their fat portions. And the LORD had regard for Abel and his offering, but for Cain and his offering he had no regard. So Cain was very angry, and his countenance fell. The LORD said to Cain, "Why are you angry, and why has your countenance fallen? If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin is couching at the door; its desire is for you, but you must master it." Cain said to Abel his brother, "Let us go out to the field." And when they were in the field, Cain rose up against his brother Abel, and killed him. Then the LORD said to Cain, "Where is Abel your brother?" He said, "I do not know; am I my brother's keeper?"
2. This is the first mention of the concept of "sin" in the Old Testament. Clearly the expression "sin is crouching at the door" is an allegorical personification of a concept of some kind. As I showed in my article "HOW IT ALL BEGAN", the entire Garden of Eden story was carefully crafted to serve as an allegorical "parable" for teaching people how to accurately distinguish between guidance that truly comes from God on one hand, and false guidance inspired by various "the forces of evil" on the other hand. The key to properly interpreting this parable was summarized by Jesus Christ in:
Matthew 22:37-40: " 'You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.' This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.' On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets." (NKJ)
I refer to the commandments above as "God's two most fundamental commandments" or "God's guiding principles of truth and love."
2a. On one hand, if you seek to follow those two commandments without placing any restrictions of the applicability of either one (i.e. if you use these two commandments as your ONLY criteria for distinguishing differences between "good" and "evil" concepts), the "tree of knowledge" that you develop by doing so is referred to in this parable as the "tree of life." Those who "eat" of that tree (who believe in and put their faith in the godly "fruits" of that tree of knowledge) are residents of the "Garden of Eden" which allegorically represents an understanding relationship with God. Jesus referred to such people as servants in the "Kingdom of God", a spiritual Kingdom which is "not of this world."
2b. On the other hand, if you seek and follow various "trees of knowledge" that are based on criteria OTHER than God's two most fundamental commandments (criteria such as financial wealth, conformance with popular but ungodly causes such as racism, etc.), you are in effect committing a sin. Some "trees of knowledge" may themselves appear to be neutral in relation to God's two most fundamental commandments, but if their "fruits" (consequences) violate God's two most fundamental commandments, then the underlying concepts are sinful as well. (Matthew 7:16) From God's point of view, such trees of knowledge and their ungodly "fruits" are unpleasant, which is why Cain's "countenance fell." Those who follow trees of knowledge that violate God's two most fundamental commandments tend to get themselves into trouble with their fellow human beings. They are engaging in a sinful kind of conduct that often leads to disastrous consequences for themselves as well as others.
SO LOOK WHAT'S HAPPENING NOW:
3. Most of you have probably seen our nation's "right-wing" TV preachers (Pat Robertson, Jack Van Impe, Jerry Falwell, and others) refer to a LOT of things as being a "sin". But have you ever seen any of them actually define what "sin" really is? I haven't. In an interview this evening with some TV newscasters, Pat Robertson confessed that he "couldn't understand" why opinion polls have consistently shown that over 60% of the American people clearly recognize that President Bill Clinton has "sinned" but nevertheless give him a favorable rating on his job performance. Among other things, he considers President Clinton to have "sinned" by violating the 7th of the Ten Commandments, "You shall not commit adultery." Indeed, it appears that Bill Clinton has committed adultery on numerous occasions; he has even admitted to doing so. But what about the 9th of the Ten Commandments, "You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor"? President Clinton's lawyers have presented a convincing case showing that Kenneth Star and the "House Managers" of the current impeachment proceedings have been violating the 9th commandment a LOT! But the fact that such conduct is ALSO a very serious SIN seems to have gone unnoticed by our right-wing religious leaders (and most of our nation's news agencies). They seem to have accepted that particular sin as being a "routine way of doing business" in our nation's capitol. Of these two sins, adultery and bearing false witness against one's neighbor, which do you think tends to be more premeditated and more maliciously motivated? Over 60% of the American people appear to have figured this out for themselves, but that answer still seems to "elude" Pat Robertson and most of our nation's news agencies.
3a. Apparently, one the reasons Pat Robertson and many other "right wing" religious leaders have refrained from explaining to their listeners what "sin" really is because THEY have been committing such sins themselves. As I pointed out in my article, "Does the Antichrist REALLY Exist?" they themselves have been fulfilling a role described in St. John's Book of Revelation (which they refer to as the "Antichrist" role) by diverting attention AWAY from following God's two most fundamental commandments. Jerry Falwell's assertion that the "Antichrist" is Jew who is alive today tends to do precisely that. Jesus Christ would characterize such people as being like the Pharisees:
Matthew 15:14. "They are blind leaders of the blind. And if the blind leads the blind, both will fall into a ditch." (NKJ)
3b. After Cain murdered Abel, Cain lied to God by claiming that he "did not know" where his brother was. Then, in a true satanic fashion, he diverted attention away from his lie by following it up with the rehtorical question "Am I my brother's keeper?" His satanically inspired question implies that the godly answer to that question is "No!". But Jesus Chirst's entire ministry, especially his parable about the good Samaritan, show that the godly answer to that questions is really "Yes!" The verses that follow in the 4th chapter of Genesis show that God clearly didn't "buy" either Cain's lie or his rehtorically implied standard of conduct. And yet, a couple of weeks ago, I saw Congressman John R. Kasich of Ohio (a potential Republican presidential candidate) spout off a list of principles that he claimed "Republicans believe in", and every one he mentioned implied that we are NOT expected to be "our brother's keepers."
3c. Hmmmm. A few years ago, our Republican leaders led an effort to scuttle President Clinton's health care plan which would have provided "universal health care coverage" for every American at a cost of about $1,200 to $1,400 per year, because the risk would be spread accross the entire American population. Various Health Insurance companies got together and spent $50 million on "Harry and Louise" TV adds opposing Clinton's plan, claiming that people would "no longer be able to choose their own doctors", etc. They suceeded. So now American's (or their companies) are paying 3 to 4 times that much for health insurance which in many cases places limits (like $800/yr) on the amount of coverage they provide for prescribed medications. So in exchange for the "freedom to choose your own doctor", you get the "freedom to go bankrupt in the event of a long-term illness or injury" even though you (or your employer) are paying $300 to $400 a month for your "health care insurance." To make matters worse, there are tens of millions of American's who have no health care insurance at all, because they can't afford the premiums. As Jesus said, "You will know them by their fruits." Now you KNOW what it REALLY means to "sin."
4. On the Link Page of this web site, I've added a link to a discussion page facility. Feel free to add your own comments to it (pro or con).
5. My review of the Book of Isaiah is taking longer than expected (it's a long book). I won't have Part I (chapters 1-39) of it done by the end of this month, but I'll publish it hopefully by mid-February.
("one grain of salt")
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Last modified on Friday, May 03, 2002