So, what’s that magic number of sins that send you to Hell until judgment day? What number of sins, or what kinds, can rob you of your salvation once you accept Jesus as lord and savior?
This is a really divisive issue at times inside and outside the church (the worldwide body of Christ and actual brick-and-mortar worship places).
First, people outside the church structure, and people in very liberal churches, just don’t like the idea of sin and Hell. It’s just too icky. It makes God look mean. Of course, removing sin and Hell from the equation also renders Jesus’ atoning death on the cross entirely meaningless.
Simple fact (biblically speaking) is that it only takes one sin to put you on the road to Hell. We are born with the devil in us, so to speak. Working only toward our own interests is easy and often very satisfying. Serving others and obeying God doesn’t bring that instant gratification. Let’s face it, sin is crack cocaine for the soul.
Now, when you consider the multitude of sinful things, from little white lies where you have your spouse call in sick for you so you can play hooky from work to murdering your neighbors in a cold-blooded orgy of murderous glee, the average human can easily commit thousands of sins in a lifetime. That’s thousands of sins committed by a really, really nice person, by the way. If you’re average…or better yet, a complete asshole…you can bring that up into the tens of thousands and more quite easily.
This is why it was such a big deal that Jesus took on himself every sin ever committed and every sin that would ever be committed in the future. He bore an amazing amount of really bad juju, folks. And in so doing, he had to allow himself to be separated spiritually from God for a time. A guy who had been in touch with his heavenly father every day of his life, cut off until he rose again from the dead. The physical suffering he endured during crucifixion was unbelievable already, and if you ever read about what crucified people went through before death, you would have to be insensitive to the point of serial killer psychosis not to shed at least some internal tears for Jesus and anyone else who suffered that form of execution. And then you add the spiritual factor, and you get some sense of why God wants people to acknowledge His son’s sacrifice and truly accept Jesus in order to benefit from his atoning death on our behalf.
So, that alone is a reason why everyone should seriously look into Jesus, and learn about why he makes sense not just spiritually (how many other religions try to restore a connection between God and humans and provide a savior for us) but historically as well (I highly recommend The Case for Christ, written by a former atheist, Lee Strobel, as a starting point on the logical reasons for believing in Jesus as the son of God). You may decide it still doesn’t make sense, but you have to give serious consideration to Jesus for your own sake. If you reject him after a real and sincere search for truth, I’ll respect your decision, even as I fear for your soul.
Now, how about losing your salvation? There are things in the Bible about how the branches can still be cut away from the olive tree and how certain sinners cannot inherit the kingdom of God and so on. So, a lot of Christians argue that being born again through faith in Jesus Christ doesn’t necessarily get you off the hook. You have to reject sin and live like Christ.
If God made nothing else clear through all those commandments and convenants over the centuries, it was that humans are inherently disobedient, ever since screwing up in the Garden of Eden (thanks so very fucking much, Adam). To make Jesus’ protection over our souls contingent upon our behavior after accepting him is ridiculous. The presence of the Holy Spirit in us is a spiritual thing, and it can moderate and guide us in our earthly activities, but we still live in human bodies that really like sin, be it physical or otherwise. Temptation occurs, and the world presses in on us, and sinning in a multitude of ways is still easy and, frankly, unavoidable. You improve, but you don’t become perfect.
The problem with saying there are certain sins, or a certain number of them, that can cost you your salvation make no sense. Now, saying that failure to accept Jesus and be accountable for your mistakes before everything is tossed into the Lake of Fire is pretty clear-cut. On the other hand, saying you are saved unless you commit too many new sins is hazy as can be. How could you ever know when you crossed the line? How could you know when you are over the limit? That places Christians into more bondage, more confusion, more doubt and more fear than before they accepted Jesus. Being born again is supposed to free us from bondage and fear and the love of sin so that we can do God’s work.
That doesn’t mean that someone who claims to be born again and commits all sorts of nastiness is necessarily born again. But that’s for that person to come to grips with. Someone who kills for the mob for a living, for example, and continues to do so after claiming to have accepted Jesus is someone whose spiritual sincerity I doubt. But that’s between that person and God and Jesus. He or she really needs to look inside and reevaluate but, for all I know, maybe that person is truly born again. It’s not my place to judge, even though an awful lot of people seem to like to set themselves up as God’s earthly judges.
The idea that you might not inherit the kingdom of God for certain sinful behavior, even after being born again refers not to losing your salvation but to the fact that depending on how well you do avoiding sin and sharing the Gospel, you will have varying rewards in Heaven. The idea of differing rewards for the really, really faithful is established in the Bible. But when you get down to it, I’d rather live in the “slums” of Heaven (if one can even say there is such a thing) than have 10 earthly homes to rival what Bill Gates, Donald Trump and any major sheik can boast.
(Image by Joshua Miller, from ebibleteacher.com)