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Evil and sin - what's the difference?

sin, evil, jesus, urantia book, Tim Hughes, God,

Sin is a very interesting topic . On the face of it, sin seems a pretty straightforward proposition: if you do the wrong thing, you've sinned. But is it that simple? This article that came across my view this week: What is sin? What is Christianity? by Tim Hughes is a pretty good read regarding sin and Christianity - even quite Jesusonian in its final analysis of sin. We'll blog below about sin and how the teachings of Jesus in The Urantia Book enlighten this topic , but first, here are a few snips from the article - worth a read:

"If you think of Christianity as a set of rules to follow, then you're missing the point. Christianity is freedom in Christ Jesus to be who God created us to be. We are designed to be the righteousness of God in Christ Jesus.

"I would contend that, as we focus on Jesus and make obedience to His will and His way our priority, we won't be violating the law. If I'm following the second command Jesus gave, to love my neighbor as myself, then I won't murder my neighbor, I won't steal from him, or covet his possessions. If we are truly walking in love with our Lord Jesus, then we will not be walking in sin. Paul explains what Jesus did for us: "He condemned sin in the flesh, that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit" [Romans 8:4 (NKJV)]."

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A quandry

When I was a child, I was told that certain behaviors were sinful: the ten commandements, of course, as well as lying, stealing, cheating on a test, disobedience, eating meat on Friday (I was a Catholic child), divorce, and many others. I grew up with a laundry list of sins that I tried hard to avoid, but did not always succeed. I developed a nagging conscience, a good deal of guilt, but not a real sense of righteousness.

When I left the Church as an adult and struck out on my own in a spiritual sense, I began to see that life was not always black or white - peoples' actions were often tinted in shades of grey, including my own. I often failed to do right things, not out of malice, but through ignorance and confusion, mainly, all the while being vaguely fearful and filled with guilt. But finally finding Jesus' teachings in The Urantia Book has really helped with that quandry once and for all. I now understand that one needs a firm foundation of reality from which to act responsibly and with right intention.

In the matter of conscience, The Urantia Book teaches:

92:2.6 Conscience, untaught by experience and unaided by reason, never has been, and never can be, a safe and unerring guide to human conduct. 103:2.10 A misguided conscience can become responsible for much conflict, worry, sorrow, and no end of human unhappiness.

It might be helpful for all of us to read Jesus' clear definitions of evil sin, and iniquity in light of the article above, written from the standpoint of traditional, Pauline Christianity.

While as you will see, we both reach the same conclusion, the teachings of the Master in The Urantia Book on this topic constitute a vastly superior and expanded discussion of this very important topic that can be of immediate use when once we understand it in more detail, not the least of which is an expanded understanding of God.

What did Jesus teach?

Jesus was once asked by his apostle, Thomas: "Why is it necessary for men to be born of the spirit in order to enter the kingdom? Is rebirth necessary to escape the control of the evil one? Master, what is evil?"

And Jesus said:

148:4.2 "Do not make the mistake of confusing evil with the evil one, more correctly the iniquitous one. He whom you call the evil one is the son of self-love, the high administrator who knowingly went into deliberate rebellion against the rule of my Father and his loyal Sons. But I have already vanquished these sinful rebels. Make clear in your mind these different attitudes toward the Father and his universe. Never forget these laws of relation to the Father's will:

"Evil is the unconscious or unintended transgression of the divine law, the Father's will. Evil is likewise the measure of the imperfectness of obedience to the Father's will.

"Sin is the conscious, knowing, and deliberate transgression of the divine law, the Father's will. Sin is the measure of unwillingness to be divinely led and spiritually directed.

"Iniquity is the willful, determined, and persistent transgression of the divine law, the Father's will. Iniquity is the measure of the continued rejection of the Father's loving plan of personality survival and the Sons' merciful ministry of salvation."

Just a point of clarification here: In my opinion, the evil of "unintended transgression" may exhibit itself as unthinking unkindness towards others ... lying, selfishness, unforgiveness, intolerance, idle gossip, or any other of a myriad behaviors that mark our relations with our fellows. And many of these behviors are born of a simple lack of wisdom/maturity. We don't willfully intend to violate God's law, but we make errors in judgment without real thought.

And he went on to say:

"Men are, indeed, by nature evil, but not necessarily sinful. The new birth—the baptism of the spirit—is essential to deliverance from evil and necessary for entrance into the kingdom of heaven, but none of this detracts from the fact that man is the son of God. Neither does this inherent presence of potential evil mean that man is in some mysterious way estranged from the Father in heaven so that, as an alien, foreigner, or stepchild, he must in some manner seek for legal adoption by the Father. All such notions are born, first, of your misunderstanding of the Father and, second, of your ignorance of the origin, nature, and destiny of man.

"The Greeks and others have taught you that man is descending from godly perfection steadily down toward oblivion or destruction; I have come to show that man, by entrance into the kingdom, is ascending certainly and surely up to God and divine perfection. Any being who in any manner falls short of the divine and spiritual ideals of the eternal Father's will is potentially evil, but such beings are in no sense sinful, much less iniquitous.

This entire discourse on Evil, Sin, and Iniquity can be found HERE

About CHOICE in regards to sin:

130:1.6 "Your Father in heaven, by endowing you with the power to choose between truth and error, created the potential negative of the positive way of light and life; but such errors of evil are really nonexistent until such a time as an intelligent creature wills their existence by mischoosing the way of life. And then are such evils later exalted into sin by the knowing and deliberate choice of such a willful and rebellious creature. This is why our Father in heaven permits the good and the evil to go along together until the end of life, just as nature allows the wheat and the tares to grow side by side until the harvest."

And forgiveness...

170:2.23 Jesus taught that sin is not the child of a defective nature but rather the offspring of a knowing mind dominated by an unsubmissive will. Regarding sin, he taught that God has forgiven; that we make such forgiveness personally available by the act of forgiving our fellows. When you forgive your brother in the flesh, you thereby create the capacity in your own soul for the reception of the reality of God's forgiveness of your own misdeeds.

To reiterate: Evil may be unconscious and unintended, but sin is deliberate; iniquity results from the habitual choosing of sin - continued and willful transgression of the will of God. Once we know better, we should be led to DO better.

How does God feel about sin?

Owing to the condition of our fallen world - fallen into darkness as a result of the Lucifer rebellion and the disasters of the Adam and Eve bestowal, we humans know very little about God. And what little we do know of God has come down to us in bits and pieces - traditions from ancient times, and Scriptural ideas and concepts of God that were penned by people who feared him - feared his power and his supposed anger. The OT Scriptures are full of descriptions of sinful acts and the wrath of God shown towards those who transgress. And even today, many of us harbor concepts of God that lead us to fear him and fear his will for us. But is that portrayal an accurate one?

With the arrival of The Urantia Book and its sweeping revelation regarding the nature of God and his loving personality, we can come to understand God much better; furthermore, we can learn to approach and truly love him - not as a stern, fearsome judge, but as a loving parent who has only our good as his primary concern. When we come to know God in this way, it becomes far easier to choose him and his will for us, which is always good, true, and beautiful. We grow interested in seeking and doing that will in our daily lives because making that choice results in greater personal happiness.

159:3.10 "Increasing happiness is always the experience of all who are certain about God." 

156:5.13 Every day a true believer lives, he finds it easier to do the right thing.

As one of the revelators of The Urantia Book states in the section called The Love of God:

"I find it easy and pleasant to worship one who is so great and at the same time so affectionately devoted to the uplifting ministry of his lowly creatures. I naturally love one who is so powerful in creation and in the control thereof, and yet who is so perfect in goodness and so faithful in the loving-kindness which constantly overshadows us. I think I would love God just as much if he were not so great and powerful, as long as he is so good and merciful. We all love the Father more because of his nature than in recognition of his amazing attributes."

And from The Urantia Book's sane, cogent teachings we learn more about the concept of sin as regarding God. Let's look together at this passage so we can all appreciate its meanings together:

God loves the sinner and hates the sin: such a statement is true philosophically, but God is a transcendent personality, and persons can only love and hate other persons. Sin is not a person.

It is my opinion that the vast majority of us are simply erring children, not unlike the children that we ourselves have. Much of this is due to misunderstandings and immaturity of character. But I suspect that most of us want to do the right thing. Most of us don't like sin any more than God does. God loves us and understands us with all of our weaknesses and handicaps.

God loves the sinner because he is a personality reality (potentially eternal), while towards sin God strikes no personal attitude, for sin is not a spiritual reality; it is not personal; therefore does only the justice of God take cognizance of its existence.

God lives within us and knows our hearts; he lives within us as the Thought Adjuster; he helps us recognize goodness and strive to achieve it, thereby growing a soul of immortality status. This is what makes all of us "potentially eternal." The closer we get to God the more spiritually real we are; conversely, the more we consciously sin, the less real we become because by choosing sin, we remove ourselves further from God, who IS the greatest reality.

Even though we all are subject to unintended evil, actual sinning is a bigger step, as sin is, as Jesus explains above, a conscious choice. Committing an evil act, while not good, is often unconscious; evil, as described by Jesus, is a lesser offense. Nevertheless, neither evil nor sin are on God's radar, until and unless they become conscious choices by a personality; that is when they become subject to the law of justice.

Here, we see the results of a sin-identified (unreal) personality:

The love of God saves the sinner; the law of God destroys the sin. This attitude of the divine nature would apparently change if the sinner finally identified himself wholly with sin just as the same mortal mind may also fully identify itself with the indwelling spirit Adjuster. Such a sin-identified mortal would then become wholly unspiritual in nature (and therefore personally unreal) and would experience eventual extinction of being. Unreality, even incompleteness of creature nature, cannot exist forever in a progressingly real and increasingly spiritual universe.

All of this is by way of saying that once we know and understand the distinction between evil, sin, and iniquity...once we understand that it is our CHOOSING that determines the nature of our acts, we begin to see more clearly how it is that once we become alligned and committed to God's will, the less will be the likelihood that we will choose sin, and even will lessen the affects of evil in our lives, too. Once we choose God's way and begin to enjoy the benefits of a God-directed, righteous life, deliberate sin becomes unthinkable as we strive for the perfection of God. Jesus reiterates this sentiment:

150:5.5 In summing up his final statement, Jesus said: "You cannot buy salvation; you cannot earn righteousness. Salvation is the gift of God, and righteousness is the natural fruit of the spirit-born life of sonship in the kingdom. You are not to be saved because you live a righteous life; rather is it that you live a righteous life because you have already been saved, have recognized sonship as the gift of God and service in the kingdom as the supreme delight of life on earth. When men believe this gospel, which is a revelation of the goodness of God, they will be led to voluntary repentance of all known sin. Realization of sonship is incompatible with the desire to sin. Kingdom believers hunger for righteousness and thirst for divine perfection."

We all struggle

Finally, let's all take a breather; I hope that you find, as I have, that seeing God in the new light of Urantia Book revelation opens up a whole new world of reality and a whole new basis for living a spiritual life, a life built on love, not fear; hope, not dread; optimism, not despair. Please follow the links I've provided in this piece so that you can gain even more insight into the loving heavenly Father of us all. And in the meantime, I offer these wonderful, positive teachings of the Master to ease your soul about sin and the human condition:

156:5.8 Do not become discouraged by the discovery that you are human. Human nature may tend toward evil, but it is not inherently sinful. Be not downcast by your failure wholly to forget some of your regrettable experiences. The mistakes which you fail to forget in time will be forgotten in eternity. Lighten your burdens of soul by speedily acquiring a long-distance view of your destiny, a universe expansion of your career.

156:2.7 Said Jesus: "My disciples must not only cease to do evil but learn to do well; you must not only be cleansed from all conscious sin, but you must refuse to harbor even the feelings of guilt. If you confess your sins, they are forgiven; therefore must you maintain a conscience void of offense."

We are all works in progress. Choosing righteousness - taking full responsibility for our own spiritual growth - is the most positive step we can take for avoiding the ravages of sin. And once we know God as he is, righteousness becomes a simple choice. While we all may still fail at times, our progress will ramain sure.

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