Saturday, September 8, 2012

Sin is an illness

 Christianity came out of Judaism and the early Christians shared the Jewish mindset, much of which viewed sin as something that required healing and restoration, not merely forgiveness or absolution. For example: Isaiah 19:22 says, "And the Lord shall smite Egypt: he shall smite and HEAL it: and they shall return even to the Lord, and He shall be entreated of them, and shall HEAL them." Psalm 41:4 says, "I said, Lord, be merciful unto me:HEAL my soul; for I HAVE SINNED AGAINST THEE." Isaiah 57:15-19 says, "For thus saith the high and lofty One that inhabiteth eternity, whose name is Holy; I dwell in the high and holy place, with him also that is of a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones. 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 the iniquity of his covetousness was I wroth, and smote him: I hid me, and was wroth, and he went on frowardly in the way of his heart. I have seen his ways, and WILL HEAL him: I will lead him also, and restore comforts unto him and to his mourners. I create the fruit of the lips; Peace, peace to him that is far off, and to him that is near, saith the Lord; and I WILL HEAL HIM." Jeremiah 3:22 says, "Return, ye backsliding children, and I WILL HEAL YOUR BACKSLIDINGS. Behold, we come unto thee; for thou art the Lord our God." Hosea 14:4 says,"I WILL HEAL THEIR BACKSLIDING, I will love them freely: for my anger is turned away from him."

The whole purpose of Christ's ministry was to heal people and restore them to the Father, it wasn't to judge. John 3:17 says, “For God sent not his Son to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.” The Greek word sozo (translated here as “saved”) means “to save, protect, HEAL, preserve to make or be whole.” Thus, we seen in the Greek that salvation involves healing and restoration to wholeness. Matthew 9:11-13 it says, “And when the Pharisees saw it, they said unto his disciples, “Why eateth your Master with publicans and sinners?” But when Jesus heard that, he said to them. “THEY THAT BE WHOLE NEED NOT A PHYSICIAN, BUT THEY THAT ARE SICK. But go ye and learn what that meaneth, I will have mercy, and not sacrifice: for I am not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.” We can see this in Jesus' interactions with the woman caught in adultery in John 8, the Samaritan woman at the well in John 4, and Zaccehaeus the tax collector in Luke 19, etc. In Orthodox thinking, Christ is the revelation of the unseen God. “For the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ. No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared Him.” (John 1:17,18) and again “God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, Hath in these last days spoken unto us by HIS SON, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds;” (Hebrews 1:1,2) Thus, the heart of the Father is revealed in the Son.

That the wages of sin is death cannot be denied, but where does this death come from? Is death intrinsic to sin, or does it come separately as punishment from God for sin? For the Orthodox, to say that death is punishment from God would be to say that Christ saves us from God since He saves us from death, and death comes from God. So, it is God who is changed by the Cross of Christ (i.e. he is appeased by the sacrifice of Christ), and not us. But who is God that He should change? It must be that death is intrinsic to sin, because sin is turning away from God who is LIFE, and the Cross of Christ saves us from sin and death. So, indeed the wages of sin really is death, not because God decided it should be so, but rather, because to turn away from God is to turn away from life itself. When God told Adam that “for in the day that thou eatest therof thou shalt surely die” it wasn't a decree of punishment, rather it was a warning that if he chose to turn from God, he would be turning from life itself. In the beginning God created man his own image and likeness. To be truly human is to be like Christ, the second Adam. To be in sin, is to be less than human, because we were created in God's image. That we sin (the works of the flesh in Galatians), is evidence that we are not whole, because we are not what God had created us to be. This is what the Orthodox mean when they say sin is a sickness. They do not mean that it is a physical sickness, like cancer, or a physical malady, like a broken bone, but rather that it is the condition of not being whole or sound, as God created us to be in the beginning.

Thus, everything that God does, He does for our healing, to restore His image in us. He smites the Egyptians, to heal them (Isaiah 19:22), and He chastens us for our benefit (Hebrews 12:10-13).

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