God can’t abide sin?

If true, it means God has a boogeyman.

“God can’t abide sin. It offends him so much, he simply can’t have it in his presence. He’s just that holy.”

It’s an idea I’ve heard repeated by many a Christian. Evangelists in particular.

It’s particularly popular among people who can’t abide sin. Certain sins offend us so much, we simply can’t have ’em in our presence. We’re just that pure.

Well, self-righteous.

You can see why Christians have found this concept so easy to adopt, and have been so quick to spread it around. It’s yet another instance of remaking God in our own image, then preaching our remake instead of the real God.

Don’t get me wrong. ’Cause Christians do, regularly: I talk about grace, and they think I’m talking about compromise. Or justification. Or nullification. Or compromise. Whatever reason they can think of to ignore grace, skip forgiveness, disguise revenge as justice, and claim they only have those prejudices and offenses because God has ’em. You claim you practice grace? Then grant me some so I can explain.

God is definitely anti-sin. He told us what he wants and expects of his people. Both through his Law, and through the teachings and example of Christ Jesus. (I was about to write “and he didn’t mince words,” but Jesus kinda did in some of his parables. Regardless, any honest, commonsense Christian—and plenty of pagans—can figure Jesus out.)

Yes, God’s offended by our willful disobedience. And he’s just as offended by the sins of people who don’t know any better: They do have consciences, after all. Ro 2.15 They were taught the difference between right and wrong. Even so, they chose what’s wrong.

But the issue isn’t whether sin bugs God. It’s whether sin bugs God so much, he can no longer practice grace. Whether he can’t abide sin—and therefore he can’t abide sinners.

If that’s the idea we’re spreading, we’re also spreading the idea we gotta clean ourselves up before we can ever approach God. Like when the Hebrews had to wash themselves for three days before the LORD could hand down his Ten Commandments. Ex 19.9-11 Like when the Hebrews sacrificed guilt offerings whenever they felt they weren’t right with God. Lv 5.15-19 Like when the ancients approached their kings with fear and trembling, knowing they could be struck down at any moment for daring to enter their presence uninvited. Es 4.11 The appearance of sin outrages God so much, it turns him into a bloodthirsty berzerker who can’t wait to fling people into fire and sulfur.

We’re also spreading the idea because God can’t abide sin, he won’t forgive it. Some of us went beyond the pale long ago, and can’t possibly approach him now. The magical substance of grace may exist, but it’s not for people who call out to God; it’s only for people whom God’s pre-selected long before, and everybody else is just plain screwed.

Basically, in order to defend our own lack of grace, we’re slandering God and making people hesitant to embrace him. Or even driving them away. Driving them to despair.

“God’s here to kill me.”

Is God unable to abide sin?

Well if he can’t, he wouldn’t be able to interact with humanity. At all. ’Cause we sin. The instant Adam and Eve sinned, their relationship with God, their descendants’ relationship with God, would’ve been over. Done. God would’ve withdrew from the planet, leaving it to entropy and waste.

God couldn’t possibly have spoken with Cain after he murdered his brother. Ge 4.9-15 Couldn’t possibly have taken Enoch, much less let Enoch walk with him. Ge 5.21-24 Likely would’ve let Noah die with the rest of humanity when God implemented the first end of the world.

Couldn’t have made contact with Abraham. Or Jacob. Or Moses. Or anyone until they’d first performed the proper purification ceremonies. An unclean person would’ve immediately contaminated God’s sanctuary, rendering it unusable every single time the wrong person stepped into it.

Couldn’t have become human to abide with us. Jn 1.14 Jesus couldn’t have dealt with unrighteous people: Sinners who had no intention of repenting, Pharisees who honestly thought they had no need to repent, traitors like Judas Iscariot, or even relatively good people who were open to him and his message. Couldn’t have spent time with his own students. Couldn’t have spent time with his own family. Would’ve flinched every time his father Joseph touched him.

You getting the idea? If God’s too holy to tolerate sin, how can any human have a relationship with him? How do we have a bible full of God-experiences? How do we have centuries of Christian history likewise full of God-experiences?

Yet people presume that’s why God drove the first humans out of paradise: They sinned, and rather than leave ’em there to contaminate paradise, God had to drive them away from his presence. (As if it’s even possible to leave God’s presence. Ps 139.7-12) But they’ve got that backwards. God didn’t kick ’em out of paradise because he didn’t love them anymore; he kicked ’em out because he absolutely did love them. He didn’t want them have access to the tree of life, and live forever in their sinful condition. Ge 3.22-23 If we were immortal sinners, we’d never be rid of sin. And God wasn’t having that. So paradise will have to wait.

If God actually suffers from hamartophobia (yep, that’s the actual word for sin-phobia) it means every God-encounter is potentially fatal. And in fact more than one person in the bible actually believed that’d happen. The presence of God put the “fear of God” into ’em: They legitimately believed God was gonna kill them.

Exodus 20.18-20 KWL
18 All the people, seeing the sound, flames, trumpet sound, smoking mountain:
The people saw, scattered, and stood far away.
19 They told Moses, “You speak with us, and we’ll listen.
Don’t let God speak with us!—or we’ll die.”
20 Moses told the people, “No fear! God came in order to test you.
He put fearful things in your presence, so you won’t sin.”

Even when it made absolutely no sense for God to kill them, as Samson’s mother had to point out to his rather dense father Manoa.

Judges 13.22-23 KWL
22 Manoa told his woman, “Dead. We’re dead, because we saw God.”
23 Manoa’s woman told him, “If the LORD were leaning towards our death,
he wouldn’t take a burnt offering and grain offering from our hands;
he wouldn’t show us all these things; he wouldn’t take the time to listen to us like this.”

Manoa’s wife had sense. Manoa, not so much. This crazy, irrational panic isn’t based on any real knowledge of God. ’Cause when God appears to people, it’s nearly always to restore us. Not destroy us. But we assume God’s intentions are the same as what we’d do if we were God… and if we appeared to sinners, it wouldn’t be as a loving Dad who wants to embrace and forgive his wayward kids. It’d be to impatiently declare, “I have had enough!” and start kicking ass.

We lack grace, so we presume God lacks grace. That’s why our first instinct when God shows up isn’t, “Dad!” but “I’m doomed. God’s here to kill me.”

Heck, look at all the Christians who teach that’s exactly how Jesus is gonna return. He’s coming back, they insist, to smite the wicked, judge the world, trigger the Great Tribulation, destroy everyone but the Christians. And for that matter, boy are we Christians in trouble! There’s nothing good in their “good news.” No mercy. No grace. Their idea of God doesn’t include any such thing. Because they don’t contain any such thing.

God doesn’t fear sin. But Christians do.

God doesn’t suffer from hamartophobia. But I’ve encountered a whole lot of Christians who surely do.

When I was a rotten little kid, I discovered the easiest way to freak out fellow Christians was to say “Goddamn.” Picked it up from certain antichrists who did it to outrage Christians. I figured I could get away with it ’cause I was damning things God considers cursed, and worthy of destruction. “Goddamn selfishness. Goddamn covetousness. Goddamn blasphemy.” I mean, aren’t these things God-damned?

But hypersensitive Christians would be so freaked out by the very word I was using. Worried God might start strike me down with lightning, Zeus-style. Worried they might get caught in the blast! So they’d superstitiously back away, just in case.

Disturbingly enough, a number of such Christians honestly do believe Jesus would back away too, if he were in the room. “You do realize God can’t abide sin. It offends him so much, he simply can’t have it in his presence. You’re driving him away.”

Driving him away? I have that much power over God?

But yeah, these Christians really do believe we do. Wanna get God out of the room? Sin. Wanna defile a church building, and make it so the Christians who expect God to be there can’t find him? Sneak in there and sin. Certain antichrists do this for evil fun. Not because they really believe it works, but because they know Christians totally believe it. They wanna throw monkeywrenches into our worship. And if we don’t realize we’re curse-proof, their monkeywrenches work on us: We worry.

Now if you’re one of those Christians who’s already unsure about your salvation, imagine how precarious your Christian life is gonna become once you’re worried every little sin might undo your relationship with God. Every impure thought causes the Holy Spirit to flee our hearts, like cats who panic when they hear a vacuum cleaner. Is grace in any way part of such a relationship?

Yet notice the many civic idolaters who fear God’s gonna abandon the United States, and pour out his wrath upon us, if we Americans keep on sinning. They keep calling to God to heal our land ’cause they’re scared to death he’s gonna abandon or forsake us. He 13.5

And why shouldn’t they think so? It’s exactly what they teach. Graceless people; graceless idea of God.

To God, darkness is nothing.

To us humans, sin’s a major obstacle. We’ve gotta resist it. Reject it. Fight it. It’s gonna kill us, y’know. Ro 6.23, Jm 1.15 This is why we imagine it a mighty power, equal and opposite to God’s goodness.

Not even close.

Looks that way from our limited point of view. But from God’s, it’s nothing. Literally nothing.

1 John 1.5 KWL
This is the message we heard from him and proclaim to you: God is light.
To him, darkness is nothing.

God is holy. This doesn’t just mean he’s apart from sin; it means sin can’t even get near him. It might try, but it’ll never survive. It’ll burn up faster than bugs in a zapper. Can’t come close.

Because sin isn’t the opposite of God. It’s the absence of God. It’s darkness; he’s light. Put God in there, and he doesn’t have to actively fight sin, or even flinch at it: It’s simply no longer there. Vaporized. Gone.

“God can’t abide sin” is the wrong concept: Sin can’t abide God. In his presence, sin flees. Sinners flee.

John 3.19-21 KWL
19 “This is the judgment: The light’s come into the world.
Yet people love the dark more than the light, for their actions are evil.
20 Every evildoer hates the light, and won’t come to the light lest their actions come into question.
21 Truth-doers come to the light, so he might reveal their actions had been done in God.”

Sin can’t get in the way of our relationship with God. We get in the way, ’cause we attribute more might to sin than it ever deserves. Can’t sever our connection with God: He forgives everything, and loves us so much he’ll forgive the worst of our actions—even as the rest of humanity screams for our heads on a pointed stick.

Sin can’t corrupt God. He can’t be tempted by any of the distractions or desires which ordinarily make us stumble. He’s never gonna fall into our thoughts of revenge, reciprocity, and destruction without restoration. Jesus may have been tempted with it, same as every human, He 4.15 but it’s so foreign to his character he dismissed it. Even when he was at his lowest points; starving to death, or about to die.

Sin is bad, and nothing for us to dismiss or think nothing of. But those rules never did apply to God. Sin isn’t a hangup for him. Not a hurdle. Not a barrier. Not even an inconvenience. It’s an effortlessly conquered foe. It appears to have killed Jesus—but nobody took his life from him; he surrendered it voluntarily. Jn 10.18 Sin didn’t kill him. He killed it.

Claiming God can’t abide sin, implies sin has any level of pull on him. Implies he’s a God who can’t easily overcome evil: It stymies him, and he can’t forgive it until he does something drastic first. Christ Jesus’s atonement wasn’t about getting sin out of our way, but about God getting sin out of his way. He’s no longer the Almighty; he’s an obsessive-compulsive who can’t deal with humans till he’s first scrubbed his own hands clean and sore.

Those who claim God can’t abide sin: They’re not describing our gracious God properly. They’re attempting to describe his holiness. But they’ve botched it ’cause they’re really describing their own fears and offenses at sin. He can’t abide sin because they can’t. But any definition of holiness which fixates on sin, which doesn’t bother to include God’s grace in it, doesn’t define God. It only exposes how we don’t really know him, his mighty power, or his grace. We only know Christianese clichés. And that’s gotta change.