27 October 2021

God can’t abide sin?

“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… okay, 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. Or liberalism. Whatever reason they can think of to ignore grace, skip forgiveness, disguise revenge as justice, and claim they only have these prejudices and offenses because God has ’em. You claim you practice grace? Then grant me some so I can explain.

Obviously God is 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, for various reasons. 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 At one point they were taught the difference between right and wrong, and 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.

Unwittingly teaching karma.

See if this is the idea we’re spreading—that God can’t abide our sin and sinfulness—we’ve also spread the idea we gotta clean ourselves up before we can ever approach God. Not literally, though it’d be a good idea to take a bath: Ritually. We gotta get rid of anything unholy.

Like when the Hebrews had to bathe 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 executed at any second for daring to enter their presence uninvited. Es 4.11 We present God as a being who’s so offended by the appearance of sin, it turns him into a bloodthirsty berzerker who can’t wait to fling people into fire and sulfur.

So first we gotta cancel out our evil deeds with good deeds. We gotta rack up some good karma. As if we can even come close to making up for all our bad karma; some people simply give up on the idea in despair.

Likewise we’re 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’ve slandered God. We’re making people hesitant to embrace him. Or straight-up driving them away.

“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. Nor Jacob. Nor Moses. Nor anyone until they 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 set foot in 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 own chosen 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 this is 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 out of his presence. (As if it’s even possible to escape God’s presence. Ps 139.7-12)

But they got that backwards. God didn’t kick the humans 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 accessing the tree of life, lest they live forever in their sinful condition. Ge 3.22-23 If we were immortal sinners, we’d never be rid of sin, and grow older and more corrupt over time. God wasn’t having that. So paradise will have to wait.

If God actually suffers from hamartophobia (yep, that’d be 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 KJV
18 And all the people saw the thunderings, and the lightnings, and the noise of the trumpet, and the mountain smoking: and when the people saw it, they removed, and stood afar off. 19 And they said unto Moses, Speak thou with us, and we will hear: but let not God speak with us, lest we die. 20 And Moses said unto the people, Fear not: for God is come to prove you, and that his fear may be before your faces, that ye sin not.

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 Manoah.

Judges 13.22-23 KJV
22 And Manoah said unto his wife, We shall surely die, because we have seen God. 23 But his wife said unto him, If the LORD were pleased to kill us, he would not have received a burnt offering and a meat offering at our hands, neither would he have shewed us all these things, nor would as at this time have told us such things as these.

Manoah’s wife had sense. Manoah, 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 regularly 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 open up a can of whupass.

We lack grace, so we presume God lacks grace. That’s why our first instinct when God shows up isn’t, “Dad!” but “Oh s--t! 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, wipe out everyone but the Christians. And for that matter, boy are we Christians in trouble!

For such dark Christians, 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 in the slightest. But no doubt you’ve encountered plenty of Christians who surely do. I have.

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 Dad, who’d never ordinarily say it as part of his swearing vocabulary; the only reason he said it was to antagonize Christians. I kinda did it for the same reason. But I figured my usage was legitimate: 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 yeah, I was fully aware hypersensitive Christians are made jittery by the very word. They think it’s blasphemous. Some even worry God might start strike me down with lightning, Zeus-style—and 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?

Oho, you didn’t think about that, didja? If I have the power to drive away God, who’s almighty now?

Yet these Christians honestly do believe we have this power. 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 will 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 freak out in just the ways they want.

Now if you’re one of those Christians who’s already not sure about your salvation, imagine how precarious your Christian life is gonna become once you’re terrified 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.

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.

Is grace in any way part of such a relationship? 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.

But it’s not even close. Looks that way to us from our limited point of view, but from God’s, it’s literally nothing. God is holy. This doesn’t just mean he stands 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.

1 John 1.5 KJV
This then is the message which we have heard of him, and declare unto you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all.

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, like the dark as soon as you flip a lightswitch. “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 KJV
19 And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. 20 For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved. 21 But he that doeth truth cometh to the light, that his deeds may be made manifest, that they are wrought 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. It doesn’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’s not remotely 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. Implies it stymies him, and he can’t forgive it until he does something drastic first. Under this thinking, Christ Jesus’s atonement wasn’t about getting sin out of our way, but about God getting sin out of his way, because he first needed to defeat it. Which makes him no longer the Almighty; just 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 trying to describe his holiness, but they’ve botched it ’cause they’re really describing their own phobias about sin. They can’t abide sin, so they figure God 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 correctly. 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.