Christian theology in a Sudanese context. The beginning of the story of God and humankind.
Sin is any rebellion against God and His will for our lives. Sin involves choosing to please ourselves and not to please our Father in heaven. I sin when I do not love God with all my heart, my soul, my mind and my entire self. As a sinner I miss the mark God has set for me. The fact that all people are sinners is obvious from thinking about the world in which we live. We, the people who share our lives, as well as others we only hear about, all fall below the high ideal God has set for every person and revealed in Jesus. I confess I am ‘a young earth, seven day, mature creationist’. I believe that the world was made in seven days, but with an appearance of age – as Adam was made in one day, but looked as if he was a man of (say) twenty years. Students in my classes at Banat, Bahri and Gereif were sometimes puzzled about what I personally believed. I reveal this now, because it introduces the Genesis 3 account of a breakdown in the close relationship between God and humankind. Adam and Eve chose to doubt God’s word, to follow their own way of satisfying their personal desires, and to deliberately disobey God’s specific command. I see that as sin three times over! The couple added again to their sin, by trying to fix it themselves and then by trying to hide away from God. All of this is often known as ‘the Fall’– the first distinct act of rebellion against the will of God. The New Testament refers back to this event several times (Romans 5:12-14; 1 Corinthians 15:21-22; 1 Timothy 2:13-14). All people have sinful natures. Parents never have to teach children to be bad! All children know how to be bad. All human nature is still in rebellion to God, as a result of the events in Genesis 3. I do not have to do anything to be a sinner. I am a sinner, seriously cut off from the Holy God. Let’s imagine there is disagreement between a group of Nuer and a group of Dinka over cattle grazing. Two young boys, one from each tribe, had become friends at school in the town. For several years they had walked to school together from their houses on the edge of the grazing land.They had learned together, they had played together. But now, their tribes had become enemies because some from the Nuer accused some from the Dinka of stealing animals. The boys themselves had not actually done anything that would change their personal friendship. But because of the actions of others in their tribes, they found themselves suddenly to be ‘enemies’ of each other.
Because of Adam’s sin against God, I am no longer God’s friend. Adam was a human being just like I am. His actions have affected my relationship to God. “… sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all men, because all sinned …” (Romans 5:12). Sin is universal in that it affects everyone. It is also universal in that it affects everything. So our minds, our emotions, our behaviour, and our created world, our community systems for government etc., are all infected with the deadly, corrupting influence of sin. Wilbur O’Donovan taught at the Evangelical Theological College, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, as well as six other African schools or colleges. He wrote clearly on this subject: “Little did Adam realise how terrible death would be! Physical death of the human body is only part of the terrible death penalty. Death touches everything in a person’s existence. It touches a person’s body, mind, emotions, relationships, marriage, family life, society, government, and even the physical earth itself”.
The results of sin are everywhere about us. Work is often hard and joyless. Childbirth is regularly painful. Snakes slither with menace along the ground (Genesis 3:14-19). The created world itself struggles as cruel natural disasters happen now within its cycles of life (Romans 8:19-22). God created humankind to reflectHis own glorious self. Men and women have amazing ideas and abilities. We enjoy the freedom to choose to live holy and loving lives. But we have thrown it all away! Rebelling against God’s way, and thinking our own way was better, we have made the mess we are now in. Humanly speaking, there seems to be no way out. We were created by God. We have become separated from God. We are unable to enter heaven. God has closed the door and put His own guards outside (Genesis 3:23,24). In Khartoum many guards are employed to look after buildings used by companies or families. Jobs may include looking after the grounds, cleaning the vehicles, answering any knocks at the gate, and overall, keeping out any thieves, and other people who should not be allowed in. I had several friends from congregations at SIM, who worked as guards in the three cities and at some other properties along the Blue, White and Nile rivers.Sometimes thieves would still manage to break in, perhaps while the guard was asleep or away for just a moment.
The guards of heaven never make any mistakes. Since it is God Who has closed the door, we must listen to Him as He tells us what to do next.
Thinking it through.
(a). Suggest a general definition of ‘sin’.
(b). “I do not have to do anything to be a sinner. I am a sinner”.
Explain what the difference is between ‘being a sinner’ and ‘sinning’.
(c). List as many things as you can – at least seven – that are affected by human sin.