Sunday, 16 April 2017

The Nature of Sin

It's not often in this Blog that we engage in intellectual, theological, philosophical or any other ending discussion. So let's change that and talk about something we are all expert on - - - SIN.

What is sin? Why do we do it? Is it because it is pleasurable in some form or another? Or are we somehow pre-programmed to do it?

The Bible tells us that sin is something that upsets God. It is against His will for us, and hurts His love for us.

I guess the first sin was when the angel Lucifer rebelled against God. The second sin was when Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit.

We are told that as a result of Adam and Eve's sin we are all born in sin and we have to struggle and toil for all our lives and suffer death.

I'm not sure I buy that. Why is it that I have to take the blame for someone else's sin? I wasn't even there at the time; and had I been there I would have probably dissuaded them from listening to the snake and advised them to enjoy their nakedness instead.

But anyway ... now all those years later we have sin. There are of course small sins, like telling a little lie every now and then, or eating too many cakes, or in my case ginger marmalade. And there are really big sins like adultery, robbing a bank and murder.

The Catholic Church, to help (or confuse) matters further, have described sins as venial sins and mortal sins. I say to confuse matters further because today many Catholics cannot distinguish venial from mortal sins; and they consider very serious sins as being ... well, quaint weaknesses really!

According to the Catholic Church venial sins are the small ones which you can ask God to forgive in your prayers and you're OK. No need to go to regular Confession for these, (so we've been told by our church).

Mortal sins are really big whoppers like adultery, stealing and killing. Basically, they are the ones which disobey the Ten Commandments and ... the rules of the Catholic Church as imposed by its teachings. (I must buy such a book just in case I'm doing something wrong and don't know it!)

Now then ... according to the Catholic Church, if you die with a mortal sin on your soul you're going down without a parachute my friend. No hope for you.

If you die with a venial sin or sins then you'll spend some time in Purgatory before going to Heaven. It's like a car-wash where they clean your soul and put a sparkle on it.

Here again I am confused.

No where in the Bible does it mention Purgatory. So we don't really know if it exists or what it's like there. Is there a burning fire like in hell but a little cooler? Are there devils poking you with blunt forks, or angels cleaning your soul? How long do you have to stay in Purgatory? Is it a day for each venial sin, a week, or longer? These Catholics don't half confuse things!

When Jesus hung dying on the Cross, He said to the thief next to Him, "Today you'll be with me in Paradise." He didn't say, "But you need to spend some time in Purgatory first!"

But let's leave the Catholic dogma to one side for a moment. Let us look at the nature of sin as viewed by God; if we could be so presumptuous as to try and see like God.

Does He view all sins with the same degree of seriousness and "badness", if there is such a word?

Does my being greedy with ginger marmalade rank in the same seriousness as adultery? Is an adulterer not also being greedy in a similar manner as me? (OK ... stop smirking. I realise there's a lot of difference between a spoonful of ginger marmalade and sex. I'm trying to be serious here, and you're making up your own jokes.)

Does God categorise sin into different levels of seriousness and does He judge us accordingly?

When we die, will He send an unrepentant adulterer, thief or murderer down? All three have broken one of His Commandments. How about an unrepentant gourmand or a lazy husband who will not paint the garden gate and fence, or mow the lawn, even though his wife asked him a million times?

Does a lazy man who does not do what his wife asks him, like mowing the lawn, deserve to go to hell? (Don't ask my wife!)

Does God judge the sin, or the intent behind the sin?

An adulterer, thief, or murderer knows he is doing something wrong. He knows it is against God's will. Yet he knowingly does it all the same regardless of the seriousness of the matter. That's what a serious, or mortal, sin is: knowing that doing something is seriously wrong, yet doing it all the same without any pressure or influence from anyone else; doing it in defiance of God.

Being lazy, or greedy, are weaknesses of human nature. God knows that; because He created us and He knows all our weaknesses. God knows that the intent behind these sins are our weaknesses rather than a clear-minded decision to do wrong, and to defy God.

The sin of Adam and Eve was not a sin of greediness because they liked the fruit. Or indeed a sin of disobedience because God told them not to eat the fruit. It was a sin of defiance. They knowingly defied God. They were told that by eating the fruit they "will be like God". (Genesis 3:5).

Not so dissimilar from Lucifer's sin. He wanted to be like God.

I believe that when God comes to judge us, He will look at the intent behind our actions. Have we lived a life as best as we can following His Commandments, loving Him, and trying our best to please Him?

Or have we lived a life in defiance of Him? Not believing in His existence. And pursuing our own purpose in life.

Father Francis Maple in one of his sermons makes a good point about our relationship with God by referring to a leaning tree. Here's what he says:
I think of a life as a tree. If a tree leans in one direction when it dies it will fall in that direction. It is not going to fall in the opposite direction. So, too, with our lives. If all the time we are leaning towards God, very likely, with God's grace we shall fall into His arms when we die. But if our lives never point to God, it is very likely that when we die we shall die in enmity with God.

NOTE: This is the second post regarding matters relating to our Christian Faith. Let's have a discussion. I welcome your views, opinions and disagreements also; for it is by an exchange of thoughts that we learn from each other. Anonymous comments welcome.

If you would like to suggest a subject which we can discuss on future posts please write to me at: Your e-mail will reach my desk only and I will respond to every one I receive.

God bless.


  1. Hi Victor! First of all, Happy Easter to you and yours, may God bless you with his love and the gift of his presence in your life always.

    Sin and purgatory, well, those are very interesting subjects. I remember reading, or maybe hearing somewhere, that purgatory was a place that was 'invented' by us humans because we couldn't understand how we'd get to heaven if we died in the state of sin. How could we be forgiven? How would we be ready to be in the presence of perfection?

    So purgatory was born. It makes sense to us, although Jesus never talked about it. Personally, I like the tree idea. I hope I'm always leaning into the presence of Christ.

    1. Best wishes for a Happy Easter to you and your family, Ceil. May God bless you all always.

      Thank you, Ceil, for starting the discussion on this post. I hope to have a series of posts wehere we discuss our faith and beliefs and learn from each other. So I'm very grateful you have taken part in the discussion.

      I too read that purgatory was invented by the Catholic Church to get money from its people who pay for Masses to be said for their dead.

      The Catholic Church bases its teaching from Scripture. In Revelation Chapter 21 Verse 27 it says ‘Nothing unclean shall enter Heaven.’

      So, strictly speaking, if we die with sins on our conscience we’re not spiritually cleaned … and that’s why we go to Purgatory.

      The belief in the existence of Purgatory goes back to the early Christians; and other Christian denominations, though not all, do also believe in such a place where souls go before they are ready to enter Heaven.

      The Catholic Church teaches that there must exist a place, or a state of being, or a state of purification, where we are cleansed of our sins and we can enter Heaven. This place, or state of being, is known as Purgatory.

      Since we will all day in a state of sin, (and I am assuming venial sins here), then surely we would need to be purified before we enter Heaven. This being so, surely God can forgive us there and then, when we die. Do we need to spend an unknown period in a place called Purgatory?

      I like the idea of the Leaning Tree. Father Francis has some nice sermons. Pity he lives so far from where I am. Although i hear he is visiting our town soon. I've known him for years.

      God bless you and your family, Ceil. And thanx again.

  2. The only thing I get confused on is where does a sin transition from venial to mortal. That's not very clear, but on everything else it is clear. You can read a simple but thorough understanding of Purgatory (yes it is in the Bible, only not given a name) here:

    1. Thank you Manny for joining the discussion.

      I don't know that you necessarily transition from one sin to another; unless the venial sin LEADS to another mortal sin.

      For example, the lazy husband who does not mow the lawn, paint the garden fence, and take the trash out, may be committing three venial sisn, (against his wife). In time, he may grow to disrespect her and commit adultery, a mortal sin. That's my understanding anyway.

      Thanx for the link about purgatory. I write in more details about this in my book "More Reflections for the Soul.

      God bless.

    2. No, some sins do have gradations. One can be angry, a venial sin, but one can get enraged, a mortal sin. One can tell a little white lie, a venial sin, but one can misrepresent oneself completely for gain, a mortal sin. One can fantasize sexually about a person, a venial sin; but one can look at porn, a mortal sin. There are many such gradations. Where they transition is beyond me.

    3. Good point, Manny. I guess the transition point is when knowingly you know it is a grave sin and you do it all the same. You may tell a white lie as a reflex action, whereas you deliberatly misrepresent yourself as a calculated action for personal gain. I suppose that's why, I think, God judges the intent behind the sin rather than the sin by itself.

      Thank you for making me think! God bless.

  3. Oh I forgot to say, Happy Easter to you and your readers!

    1. Happy Easter, Manny, to you and your family.

      May God bless you all always.

  4. Victor, Happy Easter to you and your family! This was a very thought-provoking post. I really enjoyed the quote by Fr Maple. A good reminder for all of us to keep leaning towards God.

    God Bless you.

    1. Thanx Michael. I am trying to start discussions on various aspects of our faith. As you say, thought-provoking.

      I'm glad to see you visiting here again. You have been missed.

      Wishing you and your family a great Easter. God bless you all.



God bless you.