Christianity 201

June 20, 2010

Sin Has Its Consequences

History doesn’t tell us who first came up with the notion that if you masturbate you will go blind. Neither I am aware of any scientific corroboration of this connection, though I am sure that it has acted as a deterrent to many a young man, especially in less-informed times.

Sometimes, though, there are times when, if we give into our lusts, cravings or desires, there are definite consequences.

Heather was the friend of a friend. I met her at least once, maybe twice. She was an extremely attractive girl in her late teens at a time before people said, as we now do, that “the girl is hot.” She got swept up by an older guy — some said he was in his 30s — and we don’t whether or not she was aware that he had AIDS before they had unprotected sex.

This was at a time — nearly three decades ago — before drugs could prolong the life of people diagnosed HIV positive and Heather’s life and beauty wasted away very quickly, and before much time had passed, my friend was suddenly telling me about “visiting Heather’s mom at her home the day after the funeral.” Consequences. Unavoidable consequences.

I don’t believe that today thousands of people have started down the road to blindness because of masturbation anymore than I believe that every time a bell rings, an angel gets its wings. But I do know of one instance where the Bible makes very clear the possibility of physical penalty for something which is obviously sinful.

It’s the passage that is often read at The Lord’s Supper, aka The Breaking of Bread, aka The Eucharist, aka Communion. Perhaps you were raised with I Cor. 11: 28-30 in the King James:

But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of that cup. For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body. For this cause many are weak and sickly among you, and many sleep.

Okay, I know. But for some of you-eth, the KJV script is all too familiar. Let’s try the dynamic-equivalence translation extreme of the NLT, adding vs. 27:

So if anyone eats this bread or drinks this cup of the Lord unworthily, that person is guilty of sinning against the body and the blood of the Lord. That is why you should examine yourself before eating the bread and drinking from the cup. For if you eat the bread or drink the cup unworthily, not honoring the body of Christ, you are eating and drinking God’s judgment upon yourself. That is why many of you are weak and sick and some have even died.

Wow! It does seem a bit unmistakable, doesn’t it. [At this point I paused to check out the verses in four different commentaries, but there was no convenient opt-out at this point, none of the writers suggested the language was figurative.]

It all raises the possibility of consequences. I think the view would be of God striking someone with something, that the agency of disease or even death would be external.

But I have a whole other direction for our thoughts today.

I’m wondering if perhaps it is not the case that for some people — not all — willful sin creates a physical disconnect between the body and the mind, or between the body and the spirit. Perhaps it creates a tension that puts us in conflict between our actions and that for which we were created, or, in the case of believer, a conflict between our actions and the way we are expected to be living.

We already know that many diseases are brought on by stress. Is not the conflict between right living and wrong living a major internal stress, even for those who are not pledged to follow Christ? It can weaken the autoimmune system, or conversely, overstimulate it. And for the Christ-committed, would the stress not be greater since the internal conflict is greater?

I had a story cross my desk this week about a person who I knew was involved in something that I considered a lifestyle conflict. (Whatever you’re thinking, it’s not that one; this was rather obscure.) This person was also involved with a ministry organization, so the degree of conflict would be more intensive, wouldn’t it?

Not many of you should presume to be teachers, my brothers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly. (James 3:1 NIV)

Today, this person is fighting a rather intense physical disease. I can’t help but wonder if there was so much tension between what he knew and taught to be God’s best versus what he was caught up in, that it some how manifested itself internally as a kind of stress. But I know what you are thinking:

His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” “Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” said Jesus, “but this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life. (John 9: 2-3 NIV)

Not all affliction is the consequence of wrongdoing. But the I Cor 11 passage allows for the possibility of affliction as direct consequences of sin.

Do you ever find yourself internally conflicted? Paul said,

What I don’t understand about myself is that I decide one way, but then I act another, doing things I absolutely despise… I obviously need help! I realize that I don’t have what it takes. I can will it, but I can’t do it. I decide to do good, but I don’t really do it; I decide not to do bad, but then I do it anyway. My decisions, such as they are, don’t result in actions. Something has gone wrong deep within me and gets the better of me every time. t happens so regularly that it’s predictable. The moment I decide to do good, sin is there to trip me up. I truly delight in God’s commands, but it’s pretty obvious that not all of me joins in that delight. Parts of me covertly rebel, and just when I least expect it, they take charge. (Romans 7: 15, 17-23, The Message)

The inner conflict is going to be there. The tension is going to exist. The question is whether or not it is going to absorb us into something that becomes a lifestyle with all its attendant consequences, including physical consequences.

You can disagree with this of course, but you don’t want to go blind, do you?


Today’s blog post is a combined post with Thinking Out Loud (Monday, June 21) and Christianity 201.

Photo credit (upper) http://www.lookinguntoJesus.net
Photo credit (lower) product available at http://www.zazzle.co.uk
Read more: Sin: It’s Kind of a Big Deal

2 Comments »

  1. I’m no theologian, I’ve been reading your blog for a couple of months and have been enjoying it. I’ve been away from the Church (any church) for a few years and have been trying to reconnect. When I was young our Pastor would try to literally scare the Hell out of us (small AG Church) during communion. In my new Church (more mainline) they teach that communion is a way to connect to Christ and receive from Him. I believe that if we come to Christ, He will receive us. The Pharisees went to great lengths to justify to the world why they were so special to God. A lot of evangelicals try to justify themselves because they made a one time commitment to God. I can never be good enough to be accepted by God, but I can beat on my chest and say God, be merciful to me a sinner. I wanted to write if we come to Christ and are honest or sincere but when your away from God how can you understand your motives. I would tell, (cry, shout) people not to be afraid to come to Jesus. Don’t try to clean yourself up first. He will accept you and His grace is enough.

    Comment by Rick Story — June 20, 2010 @ 9:34 pm | Reply

    • Rick,

      Thanks for writing. My wife grew up in the Canadian equivalent of AG, so I know what you’re talking about. Her youth leader tried to scare the Hell out of her and her brother on a weekly basis.

      This was a different kind of post for me I guess what I’m trying to say here is that while the scriptures allow for the possibility of disease or death because of disobedience (nice alliteration, huh?) it may also be the case that it’s just the way we are wired; we’re made in such a way that if there is a tension between mind and spirit it creates a kind of stress that can trigger all sorts of things.

      That’s what I was trying to say!

      BTW, when you go the route from Evangelical or Pentecostal to Mainline Protestant, the difference in approach can be refreshing, but remember that you’re bringing some of your AG understanding of scripture with you. You’re enjoying the best of both worlds. But there’s probably a few things (but not all) that you’ve been exposed to that the people in that church need to hear at least once. Like everything else in Christendom (a term I don’t usually use) it’s a matter of finding the balance. I’ve been speaking occasionally at a Mainline Protestant church and they see me as a kind of breath of fresh air. But I enjoy their liturgy, too. Sometimes you can strike that balance in one particular church, but they are rather hard to find.

      Comment by paulthinkingoutloud — June 20, 2010 @ 10:26 pm | Reply


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