Thursday, February 10, 2011

Chapter 8 - Sin

They had reached the fountain. It looked as if it were made of crystal or ice. The pool completely surrounded the bottom of the fountain, and from it 12 streams were making their course throughout the city.

Jesus sat down on the seat surrounding the pool at the base of the fountain and motioned for Christopher to sit.

After sitting for a moment, Jesus began. “Christopher, I'd like you to look carefully at this fountain. What do you notice about it?”

Christopher turned on the seat so he could look closely at it. He studied it for a full minute before he spoke. “It is plain, yet elegant – much like the rest of what I have seen here in the city.” A few more moments passed as he continued to look at the fountain and the streams of water. He continued. “The water looks clean and pure – and it doesn't smell of chlorine like fountains on earth.”

Jesus smiled, then quickly turned solemn and said, “Do you recall when I met the Samaritan woman at the well?”

Christopher nodded.

I told her that if she would drink of the water from the well that she would thirst again. But if she would drink of the water that I give her, she would never thirst again. Do you think she understood?”

Christopher answered, “I don't believe so from what I recall of the account. To tell you the truth, I don't know if I would have understood if I were her.”

Do you understand now what I meant?” asked Jesus.

Christopher thought a moment. “I suppose you were talking about your teachings – that if she would listen, repent and be obedient that she would be worthy of heaven.”

In its most simple form you are correct. But there is a deeper meaning. The water I offered her are Living Waters.” Jesus looked toward the fountain, and Christopher's eyes also turned toward it.

The sight of it stirred his soul. The water from the fountain gushed from the center and as it splashed down it created a roaring sound much louder that you would think it should have, yet the sound was peaceful and quiet at the same time. The water then ran into various streams throughout the city – glistening in the light. The smell of the water was refreshing and watching it flow was invigorating.

Christopher turned back to Jesus and spoke, “The Living Waters you spoke of are represented by this fountain.”

Jesus nodded. “It is a constant reminder to everyone who sees it of the infinite nature of the atonement that I have made for mankind. Water is necessary for life – man cannot physically live without it. But Living Water sustains more than just physical life – it sustains the spirit, allowing one to heal who has been spiritually or emotionally injured. It allows one to grow beyond their own abilities. Those who drink Living Waters – not just sip, but freely drink – allow the atonement to work within them. I was offering that dear Samaritan woman the ability to be healed from her turmoil. To find comfort from her trials. And after her life had ended, to enjoy peace and contentment.”

A full minute went by as Christopher and Jesus were watching the waters. Christopher broke the silence. “The woman at the well. She was a 'sinner' as I recall.”

Jesus looked at Christopher, “Yes, as are all mankind.”

I've lived my life with a good moral compass – most likely because of my mother and father's example as a youth. Even though I have not had religion in my adult life, the concept of right and wrong from an ethical and moral perspective has always been clear to me. I've always considered the law as the lowest or minimum standard that must be met – not the high standard which I try to live.”

Jesus said, “I've always admired you for that Christopher.” Then he grinned, “Although your pride and lack of patience can sometimes be a stumbling block.”

Christopher looked up at Jesus. His look was serious at being called on the carpet. But after a moment he grinned slightly and nodded.

May I ask your definition of sin?” Jesus asked.

Well,” answered Christopher, “although I don't use the word sin, I would define it as doing something that harms someone else.”

What about doing something that harms yourself. Is that sin?” asked Jesus.

Christopher thought for just a moment and replied, “No – if you do something that harms yourself you are just plain stupid – but I wouldn't consider it a 'sin'.”

Jesus smiled, then turning more serious he said. “The definition of sin is offending God, or taking yourself farther away from God. Of course causing offense to others is included in that definition since when one does that, they also offend God.”

Christopher nodded in agreement.

However when you said that harming yourself is not sin – does harming yourself not also affect others in a negative way? No matter who you are or what you do, if you damage yourself you also adversely affect others. So wouldn't you say that harming anyone, even yourself would be considered a sin?”

In a broader sense, I suppose that makes sense” agreed Christopher.

What are some examples of sin - things that would take you farther away from God?” asked Jesus.

I can tell you what I consider immoral or unethical behavior. I believe these would also fit your definition of offending God.” answered Christopher.

Jesus looked at him expectantly but said nothing.

Christopher continued. “Taking advantage of someone, knowing their weaknesses and exploiting them to give yourself the advantage. Some call this 'good business' but I consider it ethically irresponsible.”

Agreed.” said Jesus. “Continue.”

Christopher nodded and went to his next item. “All my life I have avoided substances that affect my ability to reason. I want to be in control of myself and am not willing to bow to indulgences that take away that control.”

Good.” said Jesus. “What else?”

Related to indulgences, I refuse to give in to moral degradation that is being proliferated in the media.” Christopher was very passionate and move forward quickly. “I have seen it take over lives and leave everyone involved in ruin. I had a good friend who was swept away by the lure of lewdness and sexual pleasures. It consumed him until he was no longer doing his job. His wife could not put up with him any longer and he lost her and his two lovely children.” Christopher's face was red with emotion. He eventually calmed and shook his head. “It was very disturbing and tragic.”

Jesus said, “You have touched on a very serious matter. This is the age of indulgence – where lasciviousness can be found everywhere. The earth is reeling with moral degradation that affects so many and the serious nature of immoral behavior has been lost. Love is used as justification to commit sacred acts outside of marriage that are so offensive to God, that they are next to murder in seriousness.”

This took Christopher by surprise. “Isn't that a bit strong? Forcible sexual misconduct perhaps, but if it's consensual it cannot possibly be that bad.”

Now it was Jesus' turn to be very serious. “Moral misconduct outside of marriage is a mockery to the sacred creative powers given to mankind.[1] If one is not willing to commit their lives to their spouse but instead will take advantage of one another outside of the marriage commitment, it is a grievous sin indeed. If I were to come back to earth today and declare this doctrine I would be once again rejected. I would be called intolerant, uncaring, and old fashioned. The moral law that was instituted at the beginning of the creation of mankind has been rewritten by mankind himself and is being held over the heads of the righteous as the new standard – and anyone who does not agree is being mocked and spit upon and called inhumane.”

Jesus stopped abruptly and looked at the fountain. He then continued with a soft voice that penetrated Christopher to the core. “I have suffered so they can be forgiven Christopher. But they no longer recognize it as sin and thus do not seek forgiveness. Murder, theft, abuse – are all recognized as inappropriate even by those who do not believe in me. But intimate acts between two consenting adults now is perfectly acceptable in society, despite the teachings of the prophets since the beginning of time.” Jesus paused for a moment, then said softly. “It grieves me.”

Again there was silence, except the constant reminder of the waters flowing from the fountain. Christopher did not dare speak. In his lifetime he had seen this shift in the moral standard. As a youth it was taboo to have any sexual relationship with anyone outside of marriage. Today it is considered unusual if anyone is a virgin past the age of 20. Does social acceptance of a behavior make it the right thing to do? “It is indeed a difficult issue,” thought Christopher. There have been some things that society has mandated as the standard which have not been good principles. The lack of ability for women to vote was one that he thought of immediately. Just because it was the 'rule' didn't mean it was correct. So society made the correction after much protest and debate. So who can judge between what is a bad societal law and what is a firm standard that should not be changed? He looked at Jesus who was still looking at the fountain. Being here with him and seeing what he had seen of the spirits who have died, it seemed so clear that to follow him is the best way to live. But back home things don't seem as straightforward. Trying to distinguish between right and wrong isn't just black and white and with some issues it isn’t clear at all if there is a right or wrong.

That is one of the most difficult challenges in life.” said Jesus.

Christopher was taken out of his thoughts and realized that Jesus was looking at him. “Pardon me?” asked Christopher.

Making a determination between right and wrong. This is one of the most difficult challenges in life.” answered Jesus.

Christopher realized that Jesus was following his thoughts again

Jesus continued. “In life there are many voices. Many opinions and views. Sometimes the influx of information is like a shifting wind, blowing one direction, then another. Sometimes people try to deceive you, trying to persuade you to believe a certain way so they can benefit from you. Or sometimes people truly believe what they are saying and feel it is the best way. With all of these voices, how can one determine what is right and what is wrong – or if there is no right or wrong just a difference of opinion?”

Christopher just stared at Jesus, not sure how to answer.

Jesus answered his own question. “I have answered this question many times throughout the ages. The answer is simple, but the application takes effort and faith. Scriptures have been written to assist mankind with difficult questions. I have spoken to righteous men and women since the world began – and they have been commanded to write my words. In addition, there are righteous men and women living on the earth today who I speak to. Find them, and listen to their counsel. You may know if they are speaking my words by their fruits - their example, [2] and by answers to sincere prayer. The ability to pray sincerely and receive answers is the rock that I spoke to Peter about. Physical proof has not revealed the answers to you but my Father which is in heaven speaking through the Holy Ghost. [3] Personal revelation is when answers come to your mind and heart. When thoughts come to you that are not your own.[4]”

Christopher's mind was racing, but he remained silent.

Jesus continued, “Those who are willing to find and listen to my words will know of their truth. They will know how to differentiate between right and wrong, between good and evil. And things will become as clear to them, as they are to you when you look around this city and reflect on what you have seen. You have seen what is important and what is not. You have seen what can distract people in life and cause them to sin. You have seen what sin does to corrupt their spirit.”

Christopher nodded gravely.

Those who are willing to know the truth can know it. Anyone can have a clear vision of the purpose of life and avoid the many pits that Satan has digged for them. Please Christopher, identify the pits and do not even come close to them. They are alluring. They are tantalizing. They are attractive. They are destructive. They will make you miserable beyond your imagination.”

Christopher shuddered at the memory of those pathetic spirits who could not seem to pull free from their self-made prison.

Chapter notes:
[1] Matt. 15:19-20
[2] Matt. 7:15-20
[3] Matt. 16:17-18
[4] John 16:13

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