The other day my three year old son stubbed his toe for the first time ever. I don’t know how it happened, but he stubbed it pretty bad. He needed a band-aid for real and not just for the psychological benefits. As I put a band-aid on him he asked me if I need one too.
“On your toe, so we can match band-aids.”
So we put a band-aid on my big toe and I left it there for the rest of the day.
The strangest thing happened that night. My wife pulled the sheets up quickly and I winced as they rubbed against my feet because I thought it would hurt my stubbed toe.
But my toe was perfectly fine. I only put that band-aid on for moral support. But after wearing it all day my mind was convinced that I was hurt.
Brains are weird. If something communicates to them enough times that a thing is true, they start to think it is true. My brain was convinced my toe was hurt and I acted as if it was, simply because I had been wearing a band-aid all day.
Why is sin taught first
Now think about how we tell people the gospel. Where do we start? Always with sin and always with death. We give little kids salvation bracelets and the first color is black. We think the first thing we need to know about God is that we are sinners. We tell our kids that they deserve death.
And what does this do? It convinces us that we are totally depraved. Totally worthless. Totally unwanted. And then our brains act on it.
But that isn’t where the Bible starts. The Bible starts with a man bearing God’s image. The Bible starts with man being the steward of all creation. The Bible communicates to us from the very beginning that we are not depraved, we have worth, and that we are wanted. We need to get that straight before we understand anything else. Is there sin? Yes. Does it cause problems? Yes. But why does God want to heal sin instead of just stamp it out? Because he loves us.
In the Bible, the first thing we need to know about God is that he loves us and wants to be with us.
Forgiveness is first
I think this is best illustrated in John 8.
The scribes and Pharisees bring a woman who has been caught in adultery and throw her down in front of Jesus. “This woman confirms what we know of all people: they are sinners. How should we punish her, Jesus? How should we take care of her?”
Jesus famously tells them that those of them who haven’t sinned should start the stoning. After this they, of course, leave.
He asks her if anyone is left to condemn her. There is none. Then he says one of the most amazing things in the entire Bible, “Neither do I, go and sin no more.”
What a strange order to say that, right? I think he must have meant to say, “Go and sin no more and I will not condemn you.” That is the Jesus I was taught in Sunday School. I’m a sinner and I am worthless and I need to stop sinning so that Jesus can love me. God is so willing and eager and happy to send me to hell. I deserve death and hell.
But that isn’t what Jesus said. He said “I don’t condemn you, go and sin no more.” The order is important. He has freed her from this band-aid on her soul convincing her that she is wounded and as soon as she is free of that she can go and sin no more.
What sin really is
The problem is that we think sin is breaking rules. We think that there are the ten commandments and that when we don’t keep them we are sinning. But sin is being out of union with God. When we are out of union with God we act like it. Instead of thinking that when we break the ten commandments we sin we should think that when we sin we break the ten commandments That is why Paul says the law shows us that we are sinners, because sinners will break the law. This is why Isaiah says our sin separates us from God. It isn’t that God can not reach past our wrong doing (Isaiah says he can) but because our separation IS sin.
So when Jesus tells this woman she isn’t condemned she can go forth and live in union with God. She can be connected to the divine and she can no longer be a sinner. Now it starts to make sense when we say “There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ.”
What we believe affects what we do. What we teach affects what we believe. We can either teach believe we are unwanted and go on sinning or we can believe that we are valued and go and sin no more.
What John 8 teaches us is that we should still throw sinners at the feet of Jesus, but not so that he can condemn them. We take people to Jesus so that he can take off their band-aids and bring them back into the divine union they were intended for.