DANGER: No Trespassing

No Trespassing

When I was in college, I went with a few of my friends to a nearby quarry where you could jump off cliffs into the water.  To get to the quarry we had to climb over a fence. The fence had a sign that said “No Trespassing.”

Like all good Christians at a Christian university, we jumped the fence so we could dive into the water. Eventually, the police came and forced us to stop trespassing. They let us off with a warning but made sure that we knew there was a good reason for the sign. One of the officers told us, “This quarry is now owned by the Navy and they use it to test torpedoes in the water.”

Most “No Trespassing” signs are posted simply to make sure people know that someone owns the land. Some of them, like the one at the quarry, are posted to protect people from harm.

One of the words the Bible uses for sin is “Trespassing.” Many non-Christians view Christianity as just one big “No Trespassing” sign for life. They think that Christianity’s purpose is to stop everyone from having fun and to police morality. And they have good reasons to feel this way.

What is Sin?

Sin is a word that Evangelicals love to talk about. In fact, if you ask most of them they will gladly give you a list of your sins.  And, in many cases, Evangelicals have labeled something a sin simply because they don’t like it. Because of the misuse of the word “sin”, most people think it means something that it doesn’t.

Sin is to “fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). I was taught this was defined as anything that does not meet God’s standard of perfection. Any word, thought, or behavior that did not meet God’s standard of perfection was considered a sin.

This framework, that sin is anything short of perfection, is troublesome. I lived most of my life feeling “bad” or “guilty” about everything. Even if I was nice to someone, but could have been nicer, I felt bad, because it wasn’t perfect.

Try to live your life to perfection, and you will drive yourself mad.

Yes, I believed that Jesus had died for my sin, but I also believed that Jesus was “crying” every time I did something wrong. I believed that every sin I committed was hurting Jesus again. In fact, we had a song we sang about it. The song was “Feel the Nails” by Ray Boltz*

The chorus of the song is:

“Does He still feel the nails
Every time I fail?
Does He hear the crowd cry
Crucify, again?
Am I causing Him pain?
Then I know I’ve got to change
I just can’t bear the thought
Of hurting Him.”
Songwriters: Ray Boltz / Steve Millikan
Feel the Nails lyrics © BMG Rights Management US, LLC

Missing the Mark

The definition of sin is “to miss the mark”.  The mark is not “perfection”, it’s closer to “do the right thing.”

Sin is not just doing something bad: “you missed the mark because you told a dirty joke”; sin is also not doing something you should: “you missed the mark because you didn’t help a stranger in need.”

All sin is a violation, a transgression, a missing of the mark. But sin has different levels of consequences so, in that sense, not all sin is the same. Just one sin makes us a sinner and in need of a Savior, but the results of our sin have different levels of severity.

Evangelicals decide how bad sin is by how visible it is. Sins in which you can be “caught in the act” are far worse to Evangelicals (remember the woman caught in adultery by the Pharisees?). Teenage pregnancy and gay marriage can’t really be hidden, so Evangelicals have those high on the sin scale. What would happen if every sin had a visible consequence? Think a lustful thought; go blind for a day (some of us would never see!). It would change the way we look at sin; it would change the way we judge people.

Obey the Sign

All of us, in one way or another, have ignored the “No Trespassing” sign and jumped the fence. God hasn’t placed those signs there to make life miserable, He’s put up the signs to protect us from the consequences that come with poor choices, to warn us that this is not the place we want to be.  Those signs tell us that there is another way to live our life; that jumping the fence is not what God wants for us.

Sin gives us a clue that we are in the wrong place, that if we decide to follow the instructions on the sign, God has an amazing adventure waiting for us that will bring us joy and purpose and satisfaction.

Christianity is not a list of rules, it’s an incredible journey of love. When we sin, we are missing out.

*Ray Boltz was an incredibly popular in the nineties, particularly because of his song “Thank You” which was played at every church celebration and missionary banquet for years. He would later make it known that he was gay which caused a moral conundrum for many Evangelicals who now had to decide if they should continue to use his music; most of them didn’t. You can check out his website here.

About Matthew Thisse

Matthew Thisse is a Jesus follower, single father, associate pastor, and corporate trainer. He is a former Evangelical and a failed fundamentalist.

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