When I posted Bad Acting the other day, I wasn’t preaching anything and I wasn’t putting forth a theological dissertation. It was just little old me sharing my little old stream of consciousness. There were a couple of things floating in that stream: 1. What makes some people mean? 2. Why do some Christians believe that we are all wretched sinners? I knew when I pushed publish that my thoughts were only a rough draft and I was hoping it would generate some discussion that would help me bring what I really wanted to say into focus. It did. So thank you for your comments, they furthered my thinking.
I decided to get a little more serious, bring some quick research into the equation. So first thing I did was bing “Original Sin”. Here’s what Wikipedia has to say:
Original sin, also called ancestral sin, is the Christian doctrine of humanity’s state of sin resulting from the fall of man, stemming from Adam’s rebellion in Eden. This condition has been characterized in many ways, ranging from something as insignificant as a slight deficiency, or a tendency toward sin yet without collective guilt, referred to as a “sin nature”, to something as drastic as total depravity or automatic guilt of all humans through collective guilt.
The concept of original sin was first alluded to in the 2nd century by Irenaeus, Bishop of Lyons in his controversy with certain dualistGnostics. Other church fathers such as Augustine also developed the doctrine, seeing it as based on the New Testament teaching of Paul the Apostle (Romans 5:12–21 and 1 Corinthians 15:22) and the Old Testament verse of Psalm 51:5.
Okay, right off the bat I learned a couple of things:
First, there is a spectrum of beliefs among Christians about original sin. We don’t all believe that original sin equals total depravity. Good to know that leaning toward a more moderate “sin nature” position is a legitimate Christian belief. Though I’m guessing that some in the “total depravity” camp would say that those in the “sin nature” camp are not real Christians.
The second thing I learned was that the doctrine of Original Sin was not put forth by Jesus (my “go to” for everything God related). It was put forth by men, based on, of course, Paul. And David’s Psalm 51:5 confession that he was born sinful.
Okay, so let’s think about that little bit for a second.
Before meeting Jesus, Paul was morally depraved. Even though he was well-schooled in Jewish law, he had no real understanding of God in his heart. He cruelly sent Christians to brutal deaths. All the while thinking he was pleasing God. He was a terrorist. So of course he is going to write from a knowledge of total depravity. But just because he was once totally depraved does not mean that his depravity must automatically be extrapolated to everyone else.
Same with David. Yes, committing adultery with another man’s wife and then having that man killed in order to cover up his sin was a morally depraved thing to do. But not everyone commits adultery and murder. Not everyone is morally depraved (defined wicked).
Look at Abraham. I find no wickedness in him. I find no wickedness in Job. Or Moses.
God tucked Moses into the cleft of a rock, passed before him, and declared His nature. And of all the things He could have said about Himself, He said this:
“The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin. Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished; he punishes the children and their children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation.” Exodus 34 NIV
God forgives wickedness, rebellion and sin. They are three different things.
All wickedness is sin.
All rebellion is sin.
But all sin is not wicked.
And all sin is not rebellious.
Sin is anything that falls short of God’s standards. Anything that is not-God.
You can sin and not even realize it.
Rebellion is knowing that something is sin and doing it anyway.
You cannot rebel without knowing it.
Wickedness is deliberately causing harm to another.
You can be wicked without rebellion. (If you grew up in a morally depraved atmosphere and you think wickedness is the acceptable norm.) But it is still sin.
Before I became a Christian I sinned every morning without even realizing it. I read my horoscope. Then I read Deuteronomy 18 and I learned that reading my horoscope was sin. So I stopped reading it.
I told my mom – who taught me to read my horoscope every morning, who used to read it to me when I was a child – what I read in Deuteronomy. She said, “I know.” I was flabbergasted. She knew and she read it everyday anyway? That was rebellion. And wickedness because she was knowingly causing her children to displease God.
So what I was trying to say on Wednesday is that everyone sins. We all like sheep have gone astray. We all like dumb, clueless sheep have gone astray. Sheep aren’t wicked, they are just greatly in need of a Shepherd to guide and care for them. Lest they get lost and maimed.
And I would dare say that everyone is rebellious at times because none of us obey God perfectly, even when we know what He wants us to do/not do.
But I find no Scriptural support that everyone is wicked. That everyone has a mean side.
Jesus called some people – even some generations – wicked, but He did not call everyone wicked. And He didn’t preach self-condemnation. He preached from a place of compassion and restoration and gentleness. He led by positive example – showing us what His Father is like. And that is what I would love to see some of the young bucks who climb the pulpit on Sunday morning do.
And that is what I would love to see the harsh doctrine-loving bloggers do: Lead by gentle, loving example. Without all the browbeating.
The fruits of the Spirit are love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.
What about you guys? Would you say that you are ever mean or cruel? I’m guessing the majority of you are not.