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New Sins?

I see the Vatican has announced an expansion to the list of mortal sins this week. For those wondering what a mortal sin is: according to Roman Catholicism, it’s one which has to be confessed to a priest and forgiven before death, otherwise the perpetrator ends up in Hell for all eternity. They stand in a separate class from venial sins which don’t condemn us, but are accidental, or lesser in nature.

Traditionally mortal sins are those which breach the Ten Commandments – murder or adultery for example; or the “Seven Deadly Sins” – pride, greed, envy, anger etc. But now a whole new raft of sins has been added to take into account ‘advances’ in modern society. So now the list includes environmental pollution, genetic manipulation, accumulating excessive wealth, inflicting poverty and drug abuse and trafficking.

There will be some who will see this as a real damper on life’s party, and others who will ask what right has the Vatican to declare right from wrong.

But something else strikes me as I read the Bible – God is far more demanding than even this.

The God of the Bible doesn’t appear to have a category of little sins. Any sin damns us for all eternity. The prophet Habakkuk writes, “Your eyes are too pure to look on evil; you cannot tolerate wrong” (Habakkuk 1:13). James, the brother of Jesus writes, “For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it” (James 2:10). And Paul writes, “All who rely on observing the law are under a curse, for it is written: ‘Cursed is everyone who does not continue to do everything written in the Book of the Law’” (Galatians 3:10). Paul’s point is that you have to keep everything, not just the big stuff, in order to avoid God’s wrath.

“What on earth? There’s no way anyone can manage that!” That’s the whole point. The whole point of God’s law is not for us to draw up lists of what is a big sin and what is a minor peccadillo, but to drive us to despair. To the point where we realise that we haven’t a hope.

And when we reach that point of despairing hopelessness – there we find Jesus waiting for us to confess to him our sin, and trust in him for cleansing, because he is the one who died so that we could be forgiven. When we do this, then there is nothing for us to pay. He has taken all the punishment. That’s why Paul writes, “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us” (Galatians 3:13).