READ: Genesis 37-39, Psalm 13, Matthew 13, Acts 13

Guilt-Based Theology of Sin 

“How can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God?” Joseph asks when he is tempted by Potiphar’s wife. David after sinning against Uriah, his own honor and family, and even Bathsheba, makes this startling confession in Psalm 51: “Against thee [God] and thee only have I sinned!”

The Christian theology of sin is guilt-based. Even if no one else knows what we have done, even if the sin is internal (e.g. pride), it is damning for we have offended the holiness of God. Pre-Christian (Judaism) and post-Christian (Islam) theologies of sin are much more shame-based. Sin is most heinous when its effects ripple out among the community and insult the honor of those related to the sinner. The more people that our actions negatively affect, the more serious is the sin.

A holy God, however, is just as insulted by secret sins, for all sin is under His wrath. Our internal accommodations of sin (pride, lust, attitude, jealousy, etc.) are just as offensive to God as our errant external actions. The internal concessions are the root; the external action is the fruit. We are in a daily mortal struggle. We are in an unending (’til death) boxing match that never ends. Sin seduces us moment by moment: “Come and lie with me!” We must not only with Joseph say “no” repeatedly, holding up our prayer gloved hands, we must also keep moving our feet (moving away from the barrage of sin’s fists) that we are not even near temptation. Sometimes we also just have to leave what is rightfully ours and just flee.

Let us not be the fools who critique the outward failings of those around us without acknowledging that our inward sins are just as ugly, just as lethal. We must be committed to a lifelong boxing match resisting an untiring foe. “He did not heed her, to lie with her, nor to be with her” (Gen. 39:10). God is so pure that my internal sins, the sins which do not involve or shame anyone else, are enough to condemn me to judgment. “Foul I to the fountain fly, cleanse me Savior or I die.”

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