We do ourselves a great disservice by talking about moral issues in terms of what we “must” or “have to” do. At first, you may wonder how else we could talk about them. Haven’t these things always been imperatives?

Well let me ask you this: don’t you want to be a good person? I may not be able to speak with you right now, but I’d wager that you do, deep down or right on the surface. If you really do want to be a good person, and you know that about yourself, is it still a “have-to?” How does that affect the way you think about yourself and your daily life? Shouldn’t we be excited by the prospect of living well, as opposed to being afraid of getting it wrong?

In the original Hebrew of scripture, one of the main words translated today as sin is “khata,” which literally translates as, “to miss the mark.” Notice that this is starting from an already established goal, and suggests a totally different tone from the usual interpretation of sin as a kind of moral crime. It presents a view of virtue as a practice in which we must try, fail, and grow continually better, as opposed to a law which we will be punished for breaking.

Now, if you’ve grown up in the church like me, you might be thinking that it’s a nice sentiment, but seems to contradict a lot of other scripture which does talk about the consequences of sin in some fairly harsh terms. But I think I can offer a new perspective on these as well. But let me ask a simple question: where is the line? What I mean is, the books of Jesus and the apostles seem to go to great lengths to spell out that all human beings are in the same boat. This, I believe, is the reason for remarks like “whoever has looked at a woman with lust has committed adultery in his heart.” It is not meant to shame us, but to reveal the simple fact that without Him, we are all lost.

This is also why despite numerous passages which spell out the nature of good vs bad behavior and encourage us to live virtuous lives, scripture repeatedly enforces the idea that we are saved by faith, and by works no will be saved. That’s a really fascinating idea, that no one will be saved by works, because when you think about it, the other side of that coin is exactly what my friend Todd Bell used to say during his days as a street preacher: that there will not be one person in hell because of sin.

The takeaway, I think, is that virtue—or what you might call “following the guidelines”—is more the evidence of rightness with God than a requirement for it. If we’re really committed to that sort of relationship, then He’ll rub off on us in time. We won’t be able to help it.

Have a blessed, wonderful day!

Dr. Alex Loyd


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