Archives for posts with tag: sin

As a Yankees fan, the season (and perhaps career) ending injury of Mariano Rivera has been tough news today.  For those who are not aware, Mariano Rivera is one of the all-time great baseball players and a New York Yankee.  He is one of the best pitchers in the history of the game.  Indications were Mariano would retire after this season.  He has always been considered a class act as a human being and player, never being connected with any sort of controversy or immorality.  He has been as consistent over the past twenty years as any player in any sport, and last was on the disabled list for an injury 9 years ago.

Mariano is respected by his teammates and opponents alike.  He is known as a generous, Christian family man.  Given his history, everyone familiar with him hoped he would finish with yet another strong season, a fitting tribute to a good human being and superb athlete.  No one would have dreamed his career might end in the outfield of Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City during batting practice while he was shagging fly balls and twisted his knee (tearing his ACL).

One of my initial thoughts about this situation was the sadness he surely feels.  I also thought about the injustice of the situation.  An apparently good, honest, upright man who worked hard and was respected by everyone goes out in such a tragic way.  Granted, Mariano has millions of dollars to help comfort him–don’t get me wrong–but for me the deeper issue from a Christian perspective is the lack of justice in this situation. 

I think most people consider justice to be a good and noble thing.  However, true justice simply does not exist in this world.  Furthermore, I would argue, it has little place in Christianity.

St Isaac the Syrian once said (I’m paraphrasing) God is not just.  For where is the justice in the only sinless one dying for the sins of others?   Now, this is not to say God is unjust, but rather that God exceeds justice (emphasizing a higher virtue of mercy and compassion).  The reality is, through God’s grace, we have the possibility of not “getting what we deserve.”  We have the possibility of repentance and forgiveness and restoration.  Moreover, those in this world who suffer injustices are promised to be recompensed in the afterlife.  This is the gist of the Beatitudes (Matthew 5:1-12).  It is also reflected in the Magnificat from Luke’s Gospel: “He has filled the hungry with good things and the rich has He sent empty away” (Luke 1:53).

As Christians, we should spend much less time and energy thinking about “justice.”  There is no justice in this world.  Instead, in this world, we should focus on showing love, mercy, and compassion.  These are the highest gifts, the greatest virtues (1 Corinthians 13:13).  “But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy and not sacrifice.’ For I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance” (Matthew 9:13, see also Matthew 12:7).

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In Genesis 6, we are confronted with a difficult reality.  We tend to think of God in abstract terms.  We also are inclined to think of God as some sort of cosmic ‘nice guy’–you know, like the teacher we have all had who was the easiest grader in the world, who liked to be ‘friends’ with the students, but from whom we learned absolutely nothing about the subject matter of the course. 

Genesis 6 presents us with a different picture of God.  Not because God is ‘mean’ or ‘angry’ per se, but because God is actually a good teacher–he may not be best friends with his students, but he challenges and admonishes them to get the best out of them.  He looks at the bigger picture, like great teachers, who know we will not truly appreciate them for another 10 or 20 years.

As one of my great teachers, Fr Paul Tarazi, used to joke, you will not see Genesis 6:6 on a bumper sticker: “And the Lord was sorry that He had made man on the earth, and He was grieved in His heart.”  For some reason, that verse does not give us the warm, fuzzy feeling we like to have towards God.  But it does present us with a tough reality: we often disappoint our Creator because of our sin and disobedience. 

Although we tend to think of God in abstract terms, the Bible regulary assigns human-like attributes and feelings to God.  Genesis 6 reminds us we often grieve God.  It is a sobering thought, if we take it seriously; and one God hopes will lead us to repentance, NOT to despair.  As St Paul said: “Now I rejoice, not that you were made sorry, but that your sorrow led to repentance. For you were made sorry in a godly manner, that you might suffer loss from us in nothing.  For godly sorrow produces repentance leading to salvation, not to be regretted; but the sorrow of the world” (i.e. despair) “produces death” (2 Corinthians 7:9-10).

We can grieve and mope and fall into despair because of Genesis 6:6, thinking God does not love us and having no hope for our salvation.  Or, we can wake up to the reality we often grieve God, and can be motivated to change the way we live our lives.  The fact God gave humanity a second chance after the flood shows that God hopes we will choose the second option–that we will decide to repent and change our lives to live according to His commandments.

While discussing Genesis 3, people tend to focus on the sin of Adam and Eve, their breaking of God’s commandment to refrain from eating of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.  Obviously, this sin of partaking from the tree is extremely important, but the story of Genesis 3 reveals problems much deeper than simple disobedience.  Let’s take a look at the story and see the three problems highlighted by the text.

Eve listens to the cunning serpent and eats of the forbidden tree.  She then gives some of the fruit to Adam, who also consumes it, violating the direct commandment given to him by God.  This is the first problem: Adam has disobeyed God’s commandment.

If we were unfamiliar with the biblical story and listened only to popular talk of Genesis 3, we would be inclined to think God came down from heaven and struck Adam and Eve with curses and death.  But this is not the biblical story.  Rather, immediately after Adam and Eve sin, we hear of a very gentle God: “And they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day” (vs. 8).  God comes to check up on Adam and Eve, giving them an opportunity to come clean, acknowledge their sin, and ask forgiveness.  But Adam and Eve have a different plan: they hide from God.  This is the second problem: Adam and Eve do not confess their sin, choosing to run from God.

God, of course, finds Adam and Eve hiding in the garden.  Again, rather than immediately striking them, God presents them with an opportunity to acknowledge their sin.  This time, rather than admitting wrongdoing and asking God to forgive him, Adam blames Eve.  Eve, in turn, blames the serpent.  Neither Adam nor Eve takes responsibility for disobeying God’s commandment, preferring to make excuses for sin.  This is the third problem.

In the story of Genesis 3, we have a classic example of “three strikes and you’re out.”  Adam and Eve sinned by disobeying God’s command to refrain from eating of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.  Strike one.  After committing this sin, Adam and Eve did not come forward to confess their sin and ask forgiveness, but hid from God.  Strike two.  When God finally confronts Adam and Eve directly, they both make an excuse, blaming someone else for their own sin.  Strike three.  Notice, only after strike three does God issue curses (which, essentially, make the blessings he had already given more difficult to achieve).

The story of Genesis 3 should have serious implications for how we live our lives.  Yes, it is bad to sin, but we compound our problems and the break in our relationship with God when we do not come forward to confess our sin and take full responsibility for our actions and inactions.  A close reading of Genesis 3 shows God is practically begging us to confess our sins and to be accountable, so He may forgive us.