By. Dr. Joe Parle
First, from a Christian point of view, it is not that our God does not take sin seriously, it is that God takes all sin seriously. The world often focuses on the “big sins” of child abuse, murder, etc. Typically, the “big sins” are those that most of us are least likely to commit (of course, very few people focus on the sins of pride, hate, unforgiveness or other sins that we’re all more likely to commit). In previous generations, something like adultery would be considered to be a big sin, but in the current era where governors are hiring prostitutes, former presidents argue that oral sex is not adultery and the sexual revolution has somehow convinced the world that monogamy is repressive, adultery has lost the “big sin” status in most of society (personally, I think prejudice or racism has taken its place on the worldly “big sin” list).
Jesus did not take the worldly point of view. Most people consider themselves to be pretty good people that deserve to get to heaven if, in fact, heaven exists. When I ask people what standards God might look at in order to get there, many proudly mention that they follow the Ten Commandments. Jesus once heard the same answer from a rich young ruler who claimed that he kept all of the commandments and he wanted to know what he was still lacking (Matthew 19:20). Jesus just mentioned to the man that one of the things he had to do was love his neighbor as himself. In order to prove to the man that he was not good enough to have obeyed this commandment, he asks him to prove it by selling all of his possessions and giving them to the poor (what poor man would not want for a rich man to sell his possessions and give them to him as evidence of his love?). The rich man obviously did not love his poor neighbors that much so he went away disappointed that he could not justify himself.
The challenge with Christianity is not that it thinks so little of sins like murder, but that all sins are an offense against God. If we look at those Ten Commandments in the way that Jesus does, none of us have obeyed them. How many of us have not dishonored our parents at some point in our life? How many of us have not lied about our neighbor? How many of us have not coveted our neighbor’s house or goods (or even worse his or her spouse)? Of course, at some point of our life we’ve all stolen something, dishonored the Sabbath, made idols or had other gods.
Of course, the average person focuses on what sins we haven’t committed. On average, the two popular choices are murder and adultery. Despite the fact that most people have violated eight out ten commandments, we like to pound our chest in approval and think that God must think an awful lot of us because we have not murdered or cheated on our spouse. Well, unfortunately for the prideful in the world, Jesus does not let them off the hook so easily. He said in the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5:21-22 “You have heard that the ancients were told, ‘YOU SHALL NOT COMMIT MURDER ‘ and ‘Whoever commits murder shall be liable to the court.’ 22 “But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother shall be guilty before the court; and whoever says to his brother, ‘You good-for-nothing,’ shall be guilty before the supreme court; and whoever says, ‘You fool,’ shall be guilty enough to go into the fiery hell.” Basically, according to Jesus, anyone who has gotten angry at any other person (yes, this includes the guy who cut you off this morning on the freeway on your way to work) has committed murder in his heart.
Well, the prideful man can still say “at least I have not committed adultery.” Not so, says Jesus. He said in Matthew 5:27-28 “You have heard that it was said, ‘YOU SHALL NOT COMMIT ADULTERY’; 28 but I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” Well this pretty much disqualifies just about every male from obeying this commandment (perhaps with the exception of those who have not hit puberty yet) and I would venture to say the same for most if not all females who have experienced puberty.
Thus, from the world’s point of view, it is easy to say that Christianity is so terrible for arguing that murderers get to heaven. What they do not realize is that according to Christ, like Nathan once pointed to David, “The murderer is you and me.”
Thus, in the Christian worldview, no one is good enough to deserve to get to heaven (truthfully even from the Jewish perspective David was a murderer yet God forgave him). So who does get to go? Paul answers the question in Romans 3:23-26, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus; 25 whom God displayed publicly as a propitiation in His blood through faith. This was to demonstrate His righteousness, because in the forbearance of God He passed over the sins previously committed; 26 for the demonstration, I say, of His righteousness at the present time, so that He would be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.” What Paul is saying is that Jesus paid the penalty that all of us deserved for our sin. The only way someone can go to the presence of God is to accept the free gift of eternal life (Ephesians 2:8) by trusting in the perfect provision of the perfect sinless Jesus Christ who died on a cross and rose again in order to pay the penalty of our sin and purchase a place in heaven for us.