Let's consider something we are all expert on - - - SIN.
What is sin? Why do we do it? Is it because it is pleasurable in some form or another? Or are we somehow pre-programmed to do it?
The Bible tells us that sin is something that upsets God. It is against His will for us, and hurts His love for us.
I guess the first sin was when the angel Lucifer rebelled against God. The second sin was when Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit.
We are told that as a result of Adam and Eve's sin we are all born in sin and we have to struggle and toil for all our lives and suffer death.
I'm not sure I buy that. Why is it that I have to take the blame for someone else's sin? I wasn't even there at the time; and had I been there I would have probably dissuaded them from listening to the snake and advised them to enjoy their nakedness instead.
But anyway ... now all those years later we have sin. There are of course small sins, like telling a little lie every now and then, or eating too many cakes, or in my case ginger marmalade. And there are really big sins like adultery, robbing a bank and murder.
The Catholic Church, to help (or confuse) matters further, has described sins as venial sins and mortal sins. I say to confuse matters further because today many Catholics cannot distinguish venial from mortal sins; and they consider very serious sins as being ... well, quaint weaknesses really!
According to the Catholic Church venial sins are the small ones which you can ask God to forgive in your prayers and you're OK. No need to go to regular Confession for these, (so we've been told by our church).
Mortal sins are really big whoppers like adultery, stealing and killing. Basically, they are the ones which disobey the Ten Commandments and ... the rules of the Catholic Church as imposed by its teachings. (I must buy such a book just in case I'm doing something wrong and don't know it!)
Now then ... according to the Catholic Church, if you die with a mortal sin on your soul you're going down without a parachute my friend. No hope for you.
If you die with a venial sin or sins then you'll spend some time in Purgatory before going to Heaven. It's like a car-wash where they clean your soul and put a sparkle on it.
Here again I am confused.
No where in the Bible does it mention Purgatory. So we don't really know if it exists or what it's like there. Is there a burning fire like in hell but a little cooler? Are there devils poking you with blunt forks, or angels cleaning your soul? How long do you have to stay in Purgatory? Is it a day for each venial sin, a week, or longer? These Catholics don't half confuse things!
When Jesus hung dying on the Cross, He said to the thief next to Him, "Today you'll be with me in Paradise." He didn't say, "But you need to spend some time in Purgatory first!"
But let's leave the Catholic dogma to one side for a moment. Let us look at the nature of sin as viewed by God; if we could be so presumptuous as to try and see like God.
Does He view all sins with the same degree of seriousness and "badness", if there is such a word?
Does my being greedy with ginger marmalade rank in the same seriousness as adultery? Is an adulterer not also being greedy in a similar manner as me? (OK ... stop smirking. I realise there's a lot of difference between a spoonful of ginger marmalade and sex. I'm trying to be serious here, and you're making up your own jokes.)
Does God categorise sin into different levels of seriousness and does He judge us accordingly?
When we die, will He send an unrepentant adulterer, thief or murderer down? All three have broken one of His Commandments. How about an unrepentant gourmand or a lazy husband who will not paint the garden gate and fence, or mow the lawn, even though his wife asked him a million times?
Does a lazy man who does not do what his wife asks him, like mowing the lawn, deserve to go to hell? (Don't ask my wife!)
Does God judge the sin, or the intent behind the sin?
An adulterer, thief, or murderer knows he is doing something wrong. He knows it is against God's law. Yet he knowingly does it all the same regardless of the seriousness of the matter. That's what a serious, or mortal, sin is: knowing that doing something is seriously wrong, yet doing it all the same without any pressure or influence from anyone else; doing it in defiance of God.
Being lazy, or greedy, are weaknesses of human nature. God knows that; because He created us and He knows all our weaknesses. God knows that the intent behind these sins are our weaknesses rather than a clear-minded decision to do wrong, and to defy God.
The sin of Adam and Eve was not a sin of greediness because they liked the fruit. Or indeed a sin of disobedience because God told them not to eat the fruit. It was a sin of defiance. They knowingly defied God. They were told that by eating the fruit they "will be like God". (Genesis 3:5).
Not so dissimilar from Lucifer's sin. He wanted to be like God.
I believe that when God comes to judge us, He will look at the intent behind our actions. Have we lived a life as best as we can following His Commandments, loving Him, and trying our best to please Him?
Or have we lived a life in defiance of Him? Not believing in His existence. And pursuing our own purpose in life.
A friend of mine, Father Francis Maple, in one of his sermons makes a good point about our relationship with God by referring to a leaning tree. Here's what he says:
I think of a life as a tree. If a tree leans in one direction when it dies it will fall in that direction. It is not going to fall in the opposite direction. So, too, with our lives. If all the time we are leaning towards God, very likely, with God's grace we shall fall into His arms when we die. But if our lives never point to God, it is very likely that when we die we shall die in enmity with God.
NOTE: Daily sermons from Father Francis Maple at http://fatherfrancismaple.co.uk/home