Saturday, July 3, 2010

Sin and shame part 1: Why are you hiding?

For years, I believed that sin caused a separation between God and me. I was taught that God is righteous and holy and can’t bear to look on sin so when I sin, he turns away from me. In order to be restored to a right relationship with him, I had to repent and ask for his forgiveness. Then, I could live in his forgiveness until the next time I sinned and then the process began again.

Recently, my understanding of this has changed. In the garden, after Adam and Eve had sinned by eating the fruit God had told them not to eat, he didn’t turn away from them. Instead, he came looking for them as he had always done. However, now instead of greeting him, they hid from him. When they didn’t immediately come to him, he called out to them and they finally responded. They told him that they had hidden because they were naked. Shame because of their naked condition had caused them to hide from God.

This story and many others show us that God never turns away from us even when we sin. However, because of shame, we turn away from him. So, it’s obvious that shame, not sin is what causes this separation.

In the story of the loving father and his prodigal son, the father saw his son coming home when he was a long way off. He didn’t wait for his son to come to him and ask his forgiveness. Instead, before the boy could say a word, he ran to him, hugged him and kissed him. He immediately restored him fully as a son with all of the rights and privileges of a son because, in his eyes, there had never been a separation. The separation only existed in his son’s heart.

Jesus also told a story about a shepherd who left his 99 sheep to look for one lost sheep. He didn't wait for the sheep to come to him with its head hanging down in shame. Instead, he went looking for it until he found it. Then, he joyfully put it on his shoulders and carried it home.

Religion has taught us that because of his holiness, fellowship with God is broken until we've repented. This tradition has caused a lot of insecurity and fear because we're never quite sure if we've offended him. We've been told that we're out from under his umbrella of protection until we repent. So, if we don't quickly repent, all sorts of terrible things can happen to us and our family.

This picture of an easily offended God is in my opinion despicable. The description of love given by the apostle Paul says that love is not easily angered and it keeps no record of wrongs. In other words, love is not easily offended. Since God is love, then it stands to reason that he's not easily offended either.

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