We say sin separates us from God…but does it?
If you have grown up in church,
in a mildly religious home,
or really anywhere not under a giant rock in western civilization for the last 500 years, you have undoubtedly heard at one point or another the idea that we humans have been separated from God.
Whether in a Sunday sermon, at an event a friend invited you to, or just from the crazy guy shouting at everybody from the corner,
You have probably heard the idea that there is one thing has pulled you away from God and from your truest self. This one thing has not only kept you out of heaven, but it has stripped you of any hope, and true joy, or any lasting peace.
This one thing has made you helplessly lost
It has set you on opposite sides of a deep, wide chasm.
And the only hope for you now is to look to a savior, a savior named Jesus.
And what is this thing that destroys all and puts you as far apart from God as heaven is from hell?
You guessed it…
Your sin to be more specific.
I was sitting in a pew (ok it was a chair, but they were all lined up in a way that only church pews are).
There were lights, music, and a beautiful air of love and longing being satisfied. It was like seeing a loved one after a long separation.
It was sweet.
Most of the room was singing along with the music, but I chose to enjoy the atmosphere and just breathe it all in.
And that’s when it hit me.
Lyrics I had heard a hundred times came rushing to my ears in a way I had never experienced before…
It caught me.
It was the opening verse to Phil Wickham’s “Living Hope,” a song I really, REALLY love. But something was wrong about it.
The line was a simple one, but it twisted my heart in an uncomfortable direction. It was the line,
A simple enough line. Anyone who has encountered a Christian evangelist in western civilization has heard the idea that our sin separates us from God, and that no amount of church-going, good-doing, or well-meaning can cross the gap between us.
For that, we need a savior.
This line on this unassuming Sunday morning struck me hard.
It took me back to all the other songs I’ve sung with similar lyrics. Songs like “Your Love Never Fails” by Jesus Culture and the line “the chasm was far too wide.”
It flashed images across my mind of diagrams used to illustrate the point. Diagrams even I have used in my time in ministry. Diagrams like this one:
But sitting there, in the middle of this beautiful worship experience, I couldn’t help but feel unsettled.
Deep within me, within my spirit that has encountered the Holy Spirit so many times, I knew something was stirring.
I couldn’t get away from this idea that anything has that kind of power. So I started asking if it’s really true that sin separates us from God.
So, I went to the start of it all, the root of all sin according to our Christian tradition.
I went to the story of Adam and Eve.
The story of original sin.
Adam and Eve had the good life. They had everything they needed without having to toil and strive. They didn’t have to show up to a job they hated. They never had drought, or bad soil, or poor crops.
They simply got to enjoy paradise.
Part of this paradise was regular interaction with God Himself. He would literally come and walk and talk with them. He was their friend, their companion, their love. Nothing came between them.
A common phrase regarding Adam and Eve is that they were “naked and unashamed.”
The more I read this story, the more I recognize that this phrase probably has a lot more metaphorical meaning than we may think.
They weren’t just unclothed. They were fully open and exposed emotionally with one another and with the God who dwelt with them.
They held nothing back from one another because they had nothing to hide.
Being fully themselves surrounded by complete love, they lived in blissful relationship with one another and with God.
Until that day, the day they did the one thing God asked them not to.
They had one boundary and they crossed it.
And they knew it too.
They tell the serpent they were not allowed to eat from the tree, revealing that it wasn’t an accident or a mishap. They knew.
And once they had eaten the fruit, they suddenly became very aware of their nakedness and frantically worked to cover themselves up;
For the first time ever, they hid parts of themselves from each other.
Then, as happened every day of their existence, they heard God walking in the garden. They heard Him coming to be with them and dwell in the paradise of love together.
But this day something was different. Knowing they had done the one thing that might disappoint him, they ran and hid behind a bush.
They not only hid their intimacy from each other, now they were hiding from God;
their creator and best friend.
God came to the place where they typically meet up and He called out to them,
“Where are you?”
Now, we have been told all our lives that sin separates us from God, but these days I’m not so sure.
My whole life I have struggled with one sin above all the others:
Or actually, as my mentor once pointed out to me, my real sin is not lying,
As long as I can remember, all the way back to early childhood, when I did something I knew I shouldn’t, when I did something I knew my parents would not be happy about, the fear of their disappointment was so great that I did what I could to prevent that disappointment.
So I lied.
I covered it up.
I still do it today. With my friends, my family, coworkers, even with my wife who knows and loves me more than anyone.
The temptation to hide still rises up within me often because I cannot bear knowing I have disappointed someone I care about.
Adam and Eve did the same thing with God.
And it was listening to this song, it was the line about the chasm between me and God that sent off a reaction like an explosion in my heart, and I realized
God still came to be with them.
Adam and Eve’s sin did not disqualify them from His presence. He still came searching for them.
This realization also helped me see the more important truth
God has never abandoned me because of my sin.
My parents never gave up on me because of my choices.
My wife has never stopped loving me due to my mistakes.
In all these relationships, it was never the action that separated me from my loved ones,
it was never the sin that created the chasm…
It was my shame.
Or better yet, it was the reaction my shame inspired;
it was my hiding that kept me from them.
Sin does NOT keep you from God.
Check out chapter 8 of Romans if you don’t believe me just yet.
“And I am convinced that nothing can separate us from the love of God. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
If we believe He is all-knowing, then He already knew when Adam and Eve ate from the tree.
He knew it before they did it.
Yet He still came to the garden to be with them.
It was not God who stayed at a distance from them, it was their hiding that kept them from God.
It was their shame.
You are a human.
As a human, you have made and will make a lot of poor choices. You will undoubtedly fall into some situations that lead to “sinful” actions.
If I can implore you of anything it is this:
Do not let your sin lead to shame.
Right now, God is sprinting to you in your sin. He longs to comfort, nurture, and empower you to rise above the things that destroy us and hurt our world. He loves you not in spite of your sin but right smack dab in the middle of it!
Only you can create a chasm between you and God, and it is by hiding from Him because you feel ashamed.
And guess what…
Jesus died for that.
He died to show you that He would do ANYTHING for you, no matter who you are or what you do!
Because of what Jesus did and who He was, He has put the power of separation in your hands alone. Do not cover yourself up from Him, do not hide in the bushes of your shame.
Let Him come to you in your pain, in your fear, in your guilt. He will wrap you up in His arms, walk with you in the garden of your life. He will forgive and love you still.
You need only show up.