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Thy Will be Done (Part 1)
Understanding the Nature of Sin
How can a Loving God send people to an eternity of suffering in hell? How can such a God even be worthy of worship?
For ages, such questions have been asked in criticism of God, panting Him as a tyrant and egotistical being who takes pleasure in punishing those who do not follow Him. As we will see, such a god could not be further from reality. But to directly answer this question without first discussing the nature of sin would be an utter disservice.
In Luke 16:19-31, Jesus gives the parable of a rich man and a poor man named Lazarus. On Earth, the rich man was said to be dressed in fine purple linen as he lived a life of luxury. On the other hand, Lazarus was a beggar covered in sores, spending his days eating scraps from the rich man while he lived amongst dogs. Yet after death, the rich man entered hell where he experienced eternal torment while Lazarus was taken up to heaven to be amongst the angels and Abraham. Asking how such a thing could happen to him, Abraham told the rich man:
Child, remember that you in your lifetime received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner bad things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in anguish. (Luke 16:25 ESV)
Let’s consider the identity of both the rich man and Lazarus. The rich man was one who prided himself on his riches while also being able to donate extensive offerings to the temple so as to gain favor with God. The rich man took pride in his ability to follow God’s Mosaic Law, thus rooting himself in his own self-righteousness and wealth. However, Lazarus had nothing. And because he had nothing, Lazarus gave himself to God, surrendering to Him and His will. This is why Lazarus was able to go to heaven while the rich man entered hell.
Understand that sin is what sends people to hell. So what is sin? Traditionally, we are inclined to think that sin is simply breaking God’s Law, yet theologian Søren Kierkegaard describes sin as rooting our identity in something else other than God. In taking this a step further, when one loves something more than God and builds their identity on it, they have committed sin. In thinking of sin this way, we can see why the rich man was guilty of sin while Lazarus was not.
You see, the rich man did not root himself in God, but instead, he rooted himself in his own ability to follow God’s Law. His moral performance and the praises from those around him were more important to him rather than the Love and approval of God.
No matter if you’re a rich man, a student, an employee, etc., we have all made idols out of something. And when we commit this sin, it internally separates us from the Love of God. In this separation, we effectively destroy our souls and create a sort of fire that consumes us. This is the sort of fire that will ultimately destroy us in hell. This fire is painful and tormenting, as we see the rich man in Jesus’ parable display.
C.S Lewis puts this best by saying:
Its not a question of God “sending” us to hell. In each of us there is something growing up which will of itself be hell unless it is nipped in the bud.
As a log in the fire falls apart, so too do we when we commit sin against God. Weather it be your internal anger or hatred, such behaviors internally destroy you and seperate you from God’s Love, leaving us empty and tormented by His absence. After all, if we base our identity on finite and imperfect things, as those idols perish so will we. It is only when we base our identity in the Perfect God of the universe that we find everlasting life.
So what then? What is the product of sin and why does sin send people to hell?
Stay tuned for Part 2 of this discussion coming out next week.
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Michael Jones, InspiringPhilosophy Ministry
C.S Lewis “The Divorce”
Søren Kierkegaard “Sickness unto death”
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