Saturday, October 20, 2007

Who is Harmed When We Sin?

In a combox of a Catholic blog, from a user purporting to be a high profile Catholic (who I will abbreviate FB), I heard this:

"profaning the Lord is just a wrong against God, but God, who is perfect, cannot be diminished by this harm"

It reminded me of almost the same remark by Shabir Ally, a Muslim apologist:

"It doesn't hurt God in any way if you or I sin. It does not take anything away from his greatness. It does not reduce his power in any way if we sin. When we sin we hurt ourselves. And this is why we are taught to pray: 'Our Lord, we have wronged our souls, and if You do not forgive us, have mercy on us, then surely we are the losers.'"

Shabir's comments are actually an interesting paraphrase:

Proverbs 8:36 But he that sinneth against me wrongeth his own soul: all they that hate me love death.

But both Shabir and FB see only part of the equation. There is another side though:

Malachi 3:8-9
8Will a man rob God? Yet ye have robbed me. But ye say, Wherein have we robbed thee? In tithes and offerings. 9Ye are cursed with a curse: for ye have robbed me, even this whole nation.
Yes, when we sin we harm ourselves, but consequently not directly. We harm ourselves, because our sins cause us to be guilty.

But when we sin, we also wrong God. No one can take away from God's power and greatness, as Shabir correctly noted, and we cannot diminish the perfection of God (in fact, God is glorified when we sin), but sin is still an offense against God.

God cannot tolerate sin, for holiness is an essential attribute of God:

Isaiah 6:3 And one cried unto another, and said, Holy, holy, holy, is the LORD of hosts: the whole earth is full of his glory.

That is why we pray not with the words of Proverbs 8:36, but with the words of the prophet Jeremiah:
Jeremiah 14:20-22
20 We acknowledge, O LORD, our wickedness, and the iniquity of our fathers: for we have sinned against thee. 21Do not abhor us, for thy name's sake, do not disgrace the throne of thy glory: remember, break not thy covenant with us. 22Are there any among the vanities of the Gentiles that can cause rain? or can the heavens give showers? art not thou he, O LORD our God? therefore we will wait upon thee: for thou hast made all these things.

Micah 7:18 Who is a God like unto thee, that pardoneth iniquity, and passeth by the transgression of the remnant of his heritage? he retaineth not his anger for ever, because he delighteth in mercy.

Jeremiah 3:12 Go and proclaim these words toward the north, and say, Return, thou backsliding Israel, saith the LORD; and I will not cause mine anger to fall upon you: for I am merciful, saith the LORD, and I will not keep anger for ever.

Isaiah 64:9 Be not wroth very sore, O LORD, neither remember iniquity for ever: behold, see, we beseech thee, we are all thy people.

Isaiah 57:16 For I will not contend for ever, neither will I be always wroth: for the spirit should fail before me, and the souls which I have made.

For indeed:

Psalm 5:4 For thou art not a God that hath pleasure in wickedness: neither shall evil dwell with thee.

Psalm 138:8 The LORD will perfect that which concerneth me: thy mercy, O LORD, endureth for ever: forsake not the works of thine own hands.

Exodus 34:6 And the LORD passed by before him, and proclaimed, The LORD, The LORD God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abundant in goodness and truth,

Psalm 86:15 But thou, O Lord, art a God full of compassion, and gracious, longsuffering, and plenteous in mercy and truth.

But there is a difference between the elect and the reprobate:

Psalm 37:28 For the LORD loveth judgment, and forsaketh not his saints; they are preserved for ever: but the seed of the wicked shall be cut off.

And again:
Hebrews 10:30-31
30For we know him that hath said, Vengeance belongeth unto me, I will recompense, saith the Lord. And again, The Lord shall judge his people. 31It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.

Hebrews 10:39 But we are not of them who draw back unto perdition; but of them that believe to the saving of the soul.

And God's Justice must be satisfied:

Jeremiah 3:5 Will he reserve his anger for ever? will he keep it to the end? Behold, thou hast spoken and done evil things as thou couldest.

So then, let us pray, to the one true God, to this God:

Isaiah 45:21 Tell ye, and bring them near; yea, let them take counsel together: who hath declared this from ancient time? who hath told it from that time? have not I the LORD? and there is no God else beside me; a just God and a Saviour; there is none beside me.

To the Just God and Saviour,


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