Now that Yom Kippur is over, a lot of our Jewish families and friends are breathing sighs of relief. Fasting is done with and for many, the seemingly interminable services for Yom Kippur are at last over (the canting was good, but really, how can someone sit in the synagogue for so long?), and we’ve repented of our sins.
For those who believe that God keeps a Book of Life, hopefully we’ve now been entered into it, “inscribed for a good year.”
And that about wraps it up as far as sin is concerned, till the next Yom Kippur comes around. But I’m not sure we should forget about sin so easily.
Judaism of the traditional variety tells us that we are born with two inclinations — an evil inclination and a good inclination. What we need to do is to choose the good inclination over the evil.
Good luck with that.
There’s a couple of problems I see here. One is that there sure seems to be a lot of man-made evil in the world. Darfur; ethnic cleansing; terrorism; or just acting lousy to one another. Seems to be a whole lot of people out there who aren’t choosing that good inclination. Could it be that it’s because… they don’t want to?
Another problem is that the sin in the world doesn’t really get balanced by the good. Sin is metaphorically like a disease, like a cancer that metastizes throughout the human race. When a person gets cancer, we don’t tell them to forget about it and just think of the parts of their body that are healthy. We recognize that cancer means our body is not what it was intended to be, and we focus on fighting it. Sometimes we succeed and sometimes we don’t. Cancer and health are not equivalents; disease is the absence of health. The human race, even though it produces much that is good and beautiful, has a spiritual sickness that needs to be healed.
Judaism of an older kind recognized that sin has spread throughout the human race, and that it began back in the Garden of Eden with Adam and Eve. (See some of the books of the Apocrypha from the B.C.E. era.) In the New Testament, Paul picked up on this idea:
Sin entered the world through one man [Adam], and death through sin… if the many died by the trespass of the one man, how much more did God’s grace and the gift that came by the grace of the one man, Messiah Yeshua, overflow to the many!…For just as through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the one man the many will be made righteous. (Letter to the Romans 5: 12, 15, 19)
Something so radical that it affects each and every one of us needs a radical solution. Left to ourselves, when we choose what’s wrong, hurtful, evil, it’s because we want to. Fortunately, we haven’t been left entirely to ourselves; God entered humanity as a Jewish carpenter, as the Messiah, as the One who would die to atone for our sins and change our hearts.
Outrageous? Fantastic? Which is easier to believe – that the Messiah died as our atonement for sin? Or that humanity can (and will) just decide to choose what’s good and live ever after in mutual peace and harmony?
So now that Yom Kippur’s over, don’t be glad that you’ve “taken care” of sin till next year. Sin is with us every day of the year, not just out there someplace, but in our own hearts. It’s why the world is a crazy place. And it’s why God, because He loves us, sent the Messiah to deal with the disease of sin. Which is to say, to heal you, me, and anyone who cares to trust in him.
(Speaking of sin and disease, here’s the story of a Jewish oncologist who came to faith in Yeshua.)