Answering For Sin

This past weekend someone stole something from me. Actually, they didn’t. They stole it from my son. It was only a gaming console and the games he owned. The total monetary loss was limited to several hundred dollars. That in itself wasn’t such a big deal.

What was a big deal was that they stole it from my child. He’s only five years old. And though he is beginning to learn about the world, he has at this point retained much of his innocence. He is simply unaware of the extent of the cruelty and brokenness that is present in our world.

When I finally realized that his stuff was actually taken on purpose, that it wasn’t simply misplaced, I was angry–and not just a little bit. I felt outrage and indignation. “Why did this happen? Who steals from a child?”

Realizing what had happened, I took my son aside to explain. I told him that the Bible teaches us that when someone takes something that doesn’t belong to them, it is called sin. I reminded him that sin was wrong and that it broke God’s law. And on this occasion I was able to help him see that sin also often hurts other people.

I then told him one final thing. I told him that we probably wouldn’t find out who took his stuff or why, but that whoever did would have to answer to God for taking it.

He handled the situation incredibly well. Watching him respond in such a calm and mature way was one of my proudest moments as his father. But the lessons learned from this incident didn’t end with him.

God the Judge

My own words have stayed with me over the last few days. I keep coming back, not to thinking about what was lost, but to the idea of answering for sin. It brought me comfort to know that whoever had wronged my son would answer to God for it. I was relieved to think of God as judge, acting to avenge this wrong–as small as it is in the grand scheme of things (1 Thes. 4:6).

Now that a few days have passed. I’m still caught up in this idea but to a different end. As Christians, we know that sin is ultimately an offense against a holy God (Rom. 3:23). We also know that our sin was so grievous and wicked that God sent his son to die in the place of sinners in order to restore our standing before him (John 3:16).

For most of us in the United States, the Christian story is too familiar. Even for those with no real attachment to Christianity, there is nothing shocking about the idea that God sent his son to the cross. But it is shocking. As a father, I got the smallest glimpse of that over the weekend. I watched the hurt my son experienced when he was sinned against. Someone whom he probably never met wronged him. And even so small a thing was incredibly painful.

Jesus was criticized, rejected, mocked, beaten, falsely accused, wrongly condemned, whipped, and forced to carry his cross to Golgotha where he hung on a tree, exposed in shame. God’s son died there on that tree, suffocating not simply under the weight of his own body, but under the weight of the judgement of God.

At the cross, the Father poured out his wrath on Jesus, as Jesus bore the sins of the world (1 Thes. 1:10; 1 John 2:2). An innocent man was killed. A Father’s heart was grieved. The pain was awful. And rather than familiar, this reality should remain, for us, extraordinary.

Because of Sin

Jesus’ suffering and crucifixion was the worst thing in history. But it was the Father’s desire to make a way for sinners to be reconciled to him. Jesus was the perfect atoning sacrifice, offered once for all, in the place of sinners like us (Heb. 10:10). It occurs to me, though, that Jesus was that sacrifice because of sin. And that brings things back around.

The thing that brought me comfort as I experienced the pain of injustice was the idea of judgment. The thief was going to answer for his sin, maybe not to me or in a court of law, but he would certainly answer to God for what he’d done. And so will I.

If I’m honest, I don’t spend a lot of time thinking about the judgement seat of Christ. I know that my hope is in Jesus and that my sins were paid for on the cross at Calvary. But so often, I’m not trusting in that fact in order to render my best obedience to God; I’m simply hiding behind it in order to excuse my sin.

Paul said that we shouldn’t keep sinning just so grace can abound (Rom. 6:1). I know that. And I would never say that is what I’m doing. But I also know that sometimes I violate the law of God with full awareness of what I’m doing, despite the face that I know I shouldn’t.

I say things I shouldn’t say. I treat people in ways they don’t deserve. Rather than serving or considering others needs, I act in the interest of self. Though I would never say I’m purposely sinning that grace may abound, I sure am counting on that grace to cover the sin I did on purpose.

Someone will answer to God for that too.

I’m not sure how it all plays out for Christians when we finally stand before God. I know that if we are in Christ there is no longer any condemnation. But I can imagine God, in his wisdom, allowing us to finally understand the full extent of what our redemption cost when we stand before him in glory.

Jesus answered for my sin. The last thing I want to do is grieve his Father by continuing to sin against him. And perhaps the events of the past weekend prepared me to strive a little harder to render that obedience.