How Does God Feel When I Sin?
- Rev. Kyle Norman Crosswalk.com Contributing Writer
- 2020 31 Dec
What part of the serpent’s lie convinced Eve to denounce God’s command? Why did Adam fold so easily when Eve offered him a bite of the forbidden fruit? Why was the one command of thou shalt not eat so hard to obey? While we can never fully answer these questions, the effects of Adam and Eve’s sin has been felt throughout the ages. Sin is a fickle part of our humanity. I sin. You sin. This is a basic truth of our lives. Denying this only makes us guilty of lying . . .and that is a sin.
For Christians, the reality of sin leads us to a deeper question that of God’s response. How does God respond to our sin? If God rejects sin, does that necessarily mean that God rejects us? Sadly, many believe this to be true. Many picture God as the cosmic cop who issues heavenly tickets against all our infractions. In the words of Puritan preacher Jonathan Edwards, we are but sinners in the hands of an angry God.
Is this how God feels toward us when we sin?
Would God Ever Hate Me?
If we believe that God is the cosmic cop, it becomes easy to believe that every infraction of our lives places us on the outs with our creator. The cosmic cop renders us guilty and banishes us the same way that he banished Adam and Eve. God meets our sin with divine rejection. And what of God’s love, we may ask. Well, it is reserved for us for as long as we are loveable. Sin, by its nature, makes us unlovable. Therefore, God falls out of love with us whenever we sin. The twisted logic of this may sound quite rational, even biblical at first. We can even pepper this flawed picture with biblical words such as “wrath”, or “apostasy”, “wickedness,” or phrases such as “grieving the Holy Spirit.”
But is this true? Does the ever-loving God ever turn dour and hateful toward us? Do God’s emotions change so quickly? Happily, this is not what we see in the account of Adam and Eve. This scene from the Garden is important to consider as we piece together God’s response to sin. After all, this is where sin first bursts onto human life, and where God first responds. God’s response to Adam and Eve is complex, involving divine cursing, banishment from the garden, and the promise of salvation. There is, however, an important event that occurs prior to all of this. Immediately following Adam and Eve’s sin, the author of Genesis records: “Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the Lord God among the trees of the garden” (3:7-8). Despite their fall in sin, God comes walking in the garden.
Have you ever asked why God comes walking in the Garden? It is safe to assume that Adam and Eve’s fall from grace is not unknown to the Creator of heaven and earth. Obviously, the one with whom “no creature is hidden” (Hebrews 4:13) would be aware of their transgression. Furthermore, if God knows exactly what has taken place, God also knows exactly where the hiding duo is located. So why does God come walking? Why does God call out to the sinful couple?
The unfortunate confusion a lot of people make is that the Lord hates the sinful individual just as much as the Lord hates sinful action. Yet, the presence of sin in human life can never thwart the steadfast love of the Lord. Sin may become a barrier in the relationship between God and the individual, yet the Lord is forever “compassionate and full of grace, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love” (Psalm 86:15). This divine action of God walking in the garden, not to mention the very incarnation itself, makes no sense if we believe that sin renders us recipients of God’s hatred or eternal rejection.
Sin and the Steadfast Love of God
God continually calls out to sin-ridden humanity. Furthermore, it is within a sin-filled and fallen world that God wraps His Son in flesh and becomes incarnate. If ever we feel besieged by our sin, tempted to believe that God rejects us outright, let us remember these biblical affirmations. These affirmations are made, not to those who have obtained necessary moral perfection, but to those who struggle with the effects of sin in their lives.
- I have loved you with an everlasting love. (Jeremiah 31:3)
- For God so loved the world, that he gave his one and only son, so that all who believe in him should not perish but have everlasting life. (John 3:16)
- God demonstrated his love for us in this, while we are still enemies Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8)
- We love because God first loved us. (1 John4:19)
The affirmation of God’s relentless love is what plays out in the Garden. God takes the initiative of relationship. In an act of loving vulnerability, God steps into the Garden for the sake of calling the wayward couple back to himself. The call of ‘Where are you?” is not so that God can learn where Adam and Eve are, but so that Adam and Eve can learn where God is. It is a testimony to the radical identity of God as the one who dwells with us. God calls to Adam and Eve and invites them back into relationship. We fundamentally misread this biblical account if we fail to notice the extremely radical way that God works reconciliation. What is more, God’s ultimate response to Adam and Eve’s sin is the promise of salvation through the “seed of the woman.” The entire history of salvation is the response of God’s love toward us.
So, Why Do I Need to Keep Confessing My Sin If I Am Saved?
The Lord’s call to Adam and Eve brings up an interesting question: If Christians are redeemed by the blood of Jesus, forgiven once and for all, what is the purpose of continual confession? If I am saved, why do I need to confess my sin? This question is based on a misunderstanding of the role of confession. Confession is relational in emphasis, not judicial. Sin creates a barrier in our relationship with our Lord, just like two fighting individuals may live in a strained relationship. In this case, however, the strain in our relationship with God is always of our own making.
The act of confession is an act of turning to the Lord. In fact, that is what “repent” literally means. Confessing our sins is an act of worship, not one of sin-management. The role of confession is not dour self-condemnation. It is God’s love and mercy we look to. Think again of Adam and Eve. It is only because God walked amongst them that they are invited to respond to the question of “Where are you?”
Or let us think of Peter’s own confession. Upon meeting Jesus Peter freely confesses: “Get away from me Lord, for I am a sinful man” (Luke 5:8). We can only assume that Peter is being incredibly forthright and self-aware at this moment. This means that Jesus knowingly approaches a “sinful man,” and proactively steps into his boat. Following this confession, Jesus does not cast Peter aside but rather embraces him and calls him to further discipleship.
These examples show how confession, rightly understood, points us to hope and freedom. It is not a wallowing in despair. We give voice to our sinful failings only because we can be confident that the one who fashioned us will receive us in forgiving love. We confess because God will not be displaced in our lives. God is continually beside us and is ready to reconcile whenever we turn. We confess our sins to respond to the merciful presence of Christ. It becomes a doorway to experience his liberating presence. God’s desire to forgive forms the basis of our confessions, and it is in that light alone that we boldly speak.
Where Should We Look?
None of this denies that there are consequences when we sin. We cannot deny the destruction that sin plays in our lives. Sin destroys. Sin is a spiritual force that dominates our souls and imprisons us in spiritual exile. “The wages of sin is death”, Paul writes (Romans 6:23). Like Adam and Eve, sin drives us away from the Lord who is constantly calling us in love. When we sin, we fill our lives with shame, guilt - and eventually spiritual death. This is not because these are divine thunderbolts that God hurls towards us, but because these are the effects of wandering away from the God of life. We find ourselves separated from God not because God has turned his back on us, but because we have gone into hiding. Like Adam and Eve hiding in the bushes, like Jonah running for Nineveh, like Peter weeping in the dark, we surround ourselves with the effects of such spiritual destruction. And these effects can kill us.
The good news, pronounced through the entirety of Scripture, is that God responds to our sin with the offer of salvation and grace. God is steadfast in love and infinite in mercy. While it may be true that God rejects the spiritual force that destroys us, he welcomes us to himself again and again. As turned around as we can be, or as sin-ridden as our lives are at times, Christ our Saviour continually offers us new life.
See, the question is not “Are you a sinner?” or “Have you confessed?” Rather, the ultimate question we ask ourselves is “Where do we look?” Do we look away from God, to our own desires and the lures and temptations of this fallen world? Or do we keep our eyes upon Jesus, in whose light there is the fullness of forgiveness, grace, and life?
Christ comes to meet us, and it matters not how far we have traveled on the road of spiritual perfection. The good news is that even in those darkest of places, where we may be tempted to cry out “Oh wretched person I am, who can save me from this life subject to death”, we hear that angelic proclamation of the gospel “Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 7:25). Because ultimately, as in all things in our faith, Jesus is the answer. How does God respond to our sin? God responds by, and in, Jesus our Lord. And that will always be good news for us.
Photo credit: ©GettyImages/fizkes
Reverend Kyle Norman is the Rector of the Anglican Parish of Holy Cross in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. He has a doctorate in Spiritual Formation and is often asked to write or speak on the nature of Christian community, and the role of Spiritual disciplines in Christian life. His personal blog can be found here.