The cost of transgressions

“So the Lord God said to the serpent: ‘Because you have done this, you are cursed more than all cattle, and more than every beast of the field; on your belly you shall go, and you shall eat dust all the days of your life.’ . . . To the woman He said, ‘I will greatly multiply your sorrow and your conception; in pain you shall bring forth children.’ . . . Then to Adam He said . . . ‘Cursed is the ground for your sake; in toil you shall eat of it all the days of your life'” (Genesis 3:14, 16, 17 NKJV).

On my most recent trip into the mountain districts of Nepal, I was surprised to find that the number of security check-points had increased greatly. Where there had been perhaps two there were now at least six. Not only were there many more check-points, but the examination at most of them was much more intense than I had experienced in the past.

One of my Nepali companions explained the reason for the increased security. The road we were traveling has been extended to cross the Chinese border. Smugglers are taking advantage to bring much contraband into Nepal, and on down into India. Both Chinese and Nepali authorities are trying to control these activities.

While I thoroughly understand and appreciate the need for increased vigilance, I must admit to being a little irritated that I, a law-abiding visitor who did not cross the border at all, must pay the penalty of wasted time and rummaged-through belongings (on our way back down it was raining and the officers did not bother to zip up our bags or cover them – everything got very wet) because others are breaking the law. Why should I pay the price for their crimes?

But is that not the nature of crime, and especially of spiritual crime – that is, sin? The curses pronounced by God on the Serpent, Adam, and Eve were visited upon all snakes and all men and women, throughout history. This is not because every individual is guilty of their sin (the doctrine of original sin is not biblical – see Romans 5:12). It is rather due to the nature of sin itself.

Yes, we could say that “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23), therefore all deserve to pay the penalty for everyone else’s sin. But that is not actually a biblical concept either. Rather, “The soul that sins shall die” (Ezekiel 18:20). One does not suffer the consequences of another’s sin simply because he deserves to suffer.

Just like innocent tourists have to bear up under the difficulties of check-posts designed to uncover illegal trading, so all sins have broad circles of consequence. The drunk driver who causes a wreck usually harms or kills someone who is law-abiding and sober. The thief causes those whom he robs to suffer. Sin is evil and harmful, and it hurts many others besides those who willfully commit it. That is why humans today continue to suffer the hardships of Adam and Eve. Sin did it.

When we seek to justify or pardon sinful behavior we need to remember the tremendous price paid for that behavior, not only by those who are guilty, but by untold numbers who must also face the consequences of the evil let loose in the world. “The wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23).

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