Part 3 – Sin and Scapegoats

We heard in Part 2 that Jesus died for our sins. But do we really know the meaning of the word ‘sin’?

Most people assume that sin means disobeying God’s law, or failing to live up to God’s standards. But when we read the Bible, we see that sin is living in such a way that is unhealthy for us and those around us. If we continue to live in sin, this leads to alienation from God, from creation and from one another.

When we do these things, we often blame others, including God. We might make a scapegoat of him, saying that he gave us no other choice, or that God wants to kill our rivals just as much as we do. This is what happens when people are killed in the name of God.

Sin is not so much about pride and rebellion or thinking we know better than God, as it is about living in a way that dehumanizes ourselves and others, and seeks to become rivals with others instead of partners in the divinely ordained task of tending to this world.

Sin is primarily violence and the things that lead to violence. We see this result in Genesis, when Cain murders his brother, Abel. Adam and Eve, Cain’s parents, had disobeyed God by eating from the tree of knowledge. This results in a chain of events including rivalry that culminates in Cain killing Abel. The word sin is not actually mentioned at the point when Adam and Eve disobey God, but only at the when we see the final result–Abel’s murder. Further on in Genesis, we see more evidence of rivalry leading to murder, when Lamech kills a man for ‘harming’ him.

But didn’t God command killing of people in the Old Testament? Probably not. My own reading has led me to believe that this was simply what Israel believed when they were killing in God’s name. This is supposed to shock us, so we can see where the law was taking us. We were killing others in God’s name and making a scapegoat out of God.

But what about sacrifice? Didn’t God command animal sacrifices to pay for sins? I will show in the next part that God has never required it. All sacrifices in the Bible were described in such a way as to show us that God did not approve of them.

Furthermore, God completely rejected human sacrifice, and would not even permit it. So how did God deal with the sin of mankind?

God has always forgiven all people of all their sins, no matter what.

Even in the Old Testament. Even when his people were under the Mosaic Law. For example, in 2 Chronicles 7:14, we read:

if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land. [NIV]

But so often we see that his people did not return to God and ask for his forgiveness in order to restore their relationship. Instead, they tried to keep God at arm’s length, relying on following a system of laws and sacrifices.

Instead of believing that God is loving and wants to relate with each of us directly, we believe that he is angry with us. This leads to us trying to placate him through following laws and making sacrifices.

But doesn’t the Old Testament contain laws requiring sacrifices? Wasn’t sacrifice God’s idea in the first place?

We’ll find out in Part 4!

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