Home » SIN: You can’t live with it; you can’t live without it

SIN: You can’t live with it; you can’t live without it

by Dr. Eitan Bar
7 minutes read

I’m only human.
Of flesh and blood, I’m made.
Human. Born to make mistakes.
(Human, Song by The Human League, 1986)

Practice makes perfect, so they say. But to practice something, you first need knowledge of it. However, the more we learn about the world, the more we realize we don’t know. This is not that different in the spiritual realm. I remember years ago, when graduating with my master’s in theology, thinking I knew everything. But by the end of my doctorate, when someone once asked me what the most significant thing I’ve learned was, my answer was that I’ve learned how little I actually know. Theology is much like a deep well. Looking from above, you might not realize how deep it is until you try climbing down the well with a flashlight. Only then do you realize how little you actually saw.

Once upon a time, there was a naïve couple who didn’t know that they didn’t know. Then someone came along the way and used their ignorance against them.

Following the serpent’s advice, mankind has bought into the idea that we can be all-knowing, just like God. So, we had a bite from the Tree of Knowledge. The knowledge was already there around us, but only after eating are our eyes suddenly open to that knowledge. If the devil’s advice was true, it meant we should have every possible piece of knowledge there is, like God does. However, while we have more knowledge than other known species, it’s still minimal.

Say the amount of knowledge God has is like all the fruits and vegetables. In comparison, the amount of knowledge Adam and Eve had is equal to one piece of fruit. It is not pride or arrogance to claim you are all-knowing if you are omniscient, which God is. But in our case, as humans, it is far from being true.

There is an enormous gap between what we know and what there is to know. In that gap, sin prospers. For example, you can have the greatest judge, but a court case can go wrong if one critical piece of information is missing. We, too, can make bad decisions due to a lack of knowledge. Every second of every day, people judge each other too quickly and excessively because they do not have the whole picture. Judging is only one example of how lack of information affects us.

We will remain sinners as long as we, individuals and communities alike, are limited in our wisdom, understanding, and knowledge. Our limitations are what make us human. God is perfect in his wisdom, understanding, and knowledge, and therefore, he is the perfect judge. For a judge to bridge the gap as much as possible, he needs to be as wise, informed, experienced, and knowledgeable as possible. Otherwise, he might “miss” and sin – misjudge a situation incorrectly. A judge also needs sufficient time to examine the evidence and take the time to consider them. However, most of our decisions are made with insufficient knowledge and under limited time, and not always in a good state of mind. Plus, sometimes, our feelings get the best of us, and we become emotionally biased. In other words, we don’t take the time but react to situations. Sometimes we react with good judgment, but other times we don’t.

Since we don’t know everything, we are doomed to remain sinners. However, there is one exception to this rule: Jesus. In him, we receive the ultimate standard by which we can align our lives to glorify God. Instead of following an instruction manual – which we do not have – we follow a living example we can relate to. To “follow Jesus” means taking his life as the ideal example to live by. In Jesus, words became the Word that should inspire our lifestyle and theology alike.[1] When we do our best to imitate Christ’s way of living, we can overturn the effects of sin.

This is a theory that looks lovely on paper. However, in reality, life situations are often more complex and require information that is not always available. Additionally, our capacity is limited as well, especially when we have no time, are tired, hungry, fearful, sick, or under stress. Therefore, even the most just and honest people tend to react out of impulse. This means that we cannot reach perfection, nor is our environment perfect.

When someone says, “It’s not fair!” they mean that not all the information has been accounted for. In this gap, sin can flourish. As Christians, we must be willing to cover this gap with abundant grace. Unfortunately, this also means that in this world, no matter how wise, educated, or experienced we are, we are simply unable to achieve perfection. However, we can beat ourselves (and others) up for it. This is what Alien, the son, was trying to tell his father – that humans can be a bit slow.

If we don’t fail, we don’t learn and grow

When we sin, we get the opportunity to experience and learn new things, which are not always enjoyable. We also have the opportunity to learn what true love is because only when we fall do we get the chance to experience forgiveness, mercy, and grace from others lifting us up. Otherwise, if we never sinned, we would never need forgiveness and never understand what real love is. If someone forgave us a lot, we would love them a lot (Luke 7:47).

What differentiates us from Artificial Intelligence is our ability to feel pain, agony, and sorrow – Siri and Alexa cannot. We can emotionally understand forgiveness and grace, but AI cannot. We cannot learn what true forgiving love is unless we feel and experience it. However, we cannot feel and experience it unless we sin. This is the paradoxical logic behind “whoever has been forgiven little loves little” (Luke 7:47). The more mistakes a person makes in life, the better their ability to understand love, grace, forgiveness, and other godly qualities. The hopelessness of sin also leads us to conclude that we need something much stronger than ourselves and greater than anything in the world to bring about redemption. Logically, since sin is such a crucial part of our learning experience and life, it would be erroneous to associate it with our salvation.

So ironically, as humans, we learn what love is because we sin. This is why we were created imperfectly and with many limitations. God could have downloaded all available information into our brains in advance, but instead, he gave us some basic instincts to begin life with. We are supposed to learn slowly and as imperfect creatures. Sure, sin causes pain and suffering, but unless we experience that pain and suffering, our character will never grow, and we will never learn godly truths such as compassion, sympathy, and patience. Our painful life experiences in this world, through sinning, build our character and may even prepare us for life in the next world.

None of us likes to admit it, but at times, we all become tools in the hands of Satan when we fail and give in to our passions and desires, big or small. An unfortunate implication of sin is that it destroys our bodies and the world, including other people. But if we are Christians, we have a promise of a new body and a new earth. This gives us a foundation for forgiving others because we know that no matter what happens — even if they cut off our ears — everything will once again be made new. It’s a sweet promise we can lean on when times are difficult.[2]

Sin may hinder or distance our relationships (James 4:3; 1 Peter 3:7), and while some people might cut us off from their lives if we do not meet their moral standards, God will not. We humans might see sin as a threat – and rightly so because it can truly harm us. However, sin is not a threat to God. Sin cannot damage or harm God, which is why sin has never prevented God from revealing Himself to people.

Everyone experiences pain and suffering to some degree, and there is an apparent connection between suffering and sin, as sin causes the most suffering. However, in the case of Christ, it was not due to his own sins that he suffered but due to ours. In Christ, God came to show us that he is not disconnected nor distant from us sinners but that he is a God to whom we can relate, at least because he, just like us, suffered.

One of the reasons God created the church is to be a “safe space” for sinners, a hospital where broken people can come and be built back up. However, in reality, many Christians fear coming clean and admitting their sins for fear of harsh judgment and punishment. When people’s sins are revealed, others often judge them harshly and may excommunicate them by intentionally spreading gossip about them, disguised as fake spirituality: “Oh, we must pray for John and Mary. I heard their daughter did X-Y-Z!” So, very few Christians feel they can truly come clean because they do not feel it is a safe space that wants the best for them, but a place where people will judge and condemn them. Instead, they hide in shame. This “shame and guilt” culture partially results from doctrines connecting salvation and works together.

To punish, take revenge, or lock up a sinner (which in some rare cases is necessary to protect and preserve society) is equivalent to locking up a dog with rabies in quarantine. Perhaps it benefits others, but the dog still needs a cure; otherwise, it will die from its illness. Similarly, all people, even the worst of sinners, need spiritual treatment. They need Christ. Of course, rejection of the cure, as in disbelief and rejection of Christ, will prevent a person from being cured, choosing for themselves to spend eternity in a constant state of agony, sorrow, pain, and suffering by rejecting the cure offered. This is also known as eternal condemnation:

Whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. (John 3:18)

If sin is the illness that kills us, faith in Christ is the cure available to all. It is free and accessible, yet we choose whether to accept or reject it. We don’t need to buy anything, drive anywhere, or do anything. Christ already paid it all, came down to us, and did everything, giving us his blood until it was finished. All that is left for us is to believe. We choose where we go in the next world. If we believe that through Christ, we will be forgiven and resurrected forever with a new body, then we will. But if we insist otherwise, God will not force anything against our free will. The greatest sin — the only sin — which will bring God’s wrath on us is the only sin that separates us from God: unbelief. God’s wrath means a lack of protection. If we choose to reject him forever, he will not be there to protect us. We will be on our own in a godless world forever.

This article is based on my new book, ‘The “Gospel” of Divine Abuse,’ available on this Amazon page.
free sample is available here.

[1] There’s an ongoing debate in Christianity whether the Bible, as we have it today, is “perfect” (whatever that means) or not. Regardless of one’s opinion on the matter, it is not the text that we are made to worship, but the God the text speaks of.

[2] See: Philippians 3:21; 2nd Corinthians 5:1-10; Revelation 21:1-4

You may also like:

Dr. Eitan Bar
Author, Theologian, Activist