Hi young people especially. It has been a while... I've not been blogging much (and not much that is cheerful) because I've been sad and upset about a friend of a friend's unnecessary death... and also some continuing really bad behavior I've been seeing and experiencing. So I've thought of a kind of spiritual lesson to think about today that is rooted in these past few days, and also one that I think young people need to better understand (since they've not gotten good data on this in the past!)
Bad behavior is sin; they are not two separate matters. This is a confusion that has crept into the modern mind and you young people get the brunt of the confusion regarding understanding God, and avoiding sin, as a result.
Let's look at an obvious easily agreed upon example and analogy. Suppose that someone murders someone else. That can be easily categorized as: bad behavior, a crime, and a sin. So everyone can easily understand that a murder is both doing something really bad to a person, but also a sin against God.
See, many people think that a "sin" is defined as breaking a list of laws or instructions that God has given you. If the thing is "not on the list" then people think it might be bad behavior, or uncouth, but not a sin. That's wrong and not Biblically accurate. No where does the Bible say that sin is the breaking of a list of specific laws given by God, and the rest falls into kind of optional "good" or "bad" behavior that does not "involve God" since it is person-to-person behavior. In fact, the opposite is true that all bad behavior including even thoughts but not follow up deeds ARE sins against God.
If you missed it, you can go back in my haphazardly organized blog ;-) and read my long commentary that cites scripture indicating that Jews and Christians have well understood from the very beginning that even having a mean thought about another person is a sin against God, not just a mean spirited thing against a fellow human being. I probably labeled that under "sins" so you might find it easily that way. So I won't repeat all that, but I cited much scripture regarding the explicit statement that even having a mean thought about another human, even if you don't actually follow up on it, is not only a mean spirited and unrighteous feeling to have, but also an actual sin and offense against God himself. So yes, every mean thought, say nothing of actual follow up bad behavior, is a sin against God, even though common modern thought assumes that it is "just" poor behavior and lack of self control or "spirituality."
So here is where you get into very tricky territory indeed. If you pick on someone, or scorn them, or otherwise torment them, such as stalking and bullying, even if you are not breaking a "Biblical law" or Commandment or committing a human "crime," you are committing a sin directly against God. There are two Biblically cited ways that one can understand why that is.
The first reason is that avoiding sin is not a matter of do's and don'ts, but the maintenance at all time of a righteous mind. Throughout the Bible there are numerous explanations that all humans are sinners, but it is the righteous who are saved. Righteous is not defined as someone who dodges a list of sins. A righteous person is one who strives ALWAYS to do and to think/feel only what is Godly, pure and correct. When one walks in righteousness one does not "do good deeds" but have a mind and a heart like a sewer. Righteousness is a lot like the old fashioned concept of being "honorable." This is why in Revelation 21 you see, depending on the translation, that God through Jesus Christ at the End of Times states that "dogs" or "the fearful" or other translations of kind of craven sorts will not be in heaven. I blogged about that too, recently, that God does not mean that four footed canines are denied heaven but that "dog" is a widespread ancient cultural concept for humans who act dishonorably or who are dishonorable. Someone who thinks something dirty in their mind about a child he or she sees, for example, is a
"dog" and craven, and even if the person does not follow up that thought with actual molestation, they are guilty of that sin.
So to summarize the first way to understand the enormity of the problem to maintain a state of not sinning against God, remember that sin is not simply refusing to heed a stated prohibition in the Bible but is being un-righteous in any way at all, both in the commission of un-righteousness, but also in the thoughts or feelings of it AND, further, deliberately avoiding chances to be righteous. That is why some translations of Revelation 21 include the word "fearful." Those who are fearful to be righteous will not inherit their place in heaven and will, instead, go to the lake of eternal fire.
The second Biblical way to understand how crucial it is to not sin against God by behaving badly toward other human beings is to understand that God stated that he created men and women "in his image." When one torments another human being through bullying, for example, one is mocking and degrading a person who is created, like everyone else, in God's image, just one step below angels. No matter how ugly or unpleasant that you think the person might be, having that thought falls in the category of un-righteousness, and hence a sin, because you are being 1) uncharitable, which Jesus repeatedly said is a requirement of his saving grace and 2) you are mocking something that God has created. A human being may have a bad hair style, but that human being's body and dignity is created by God. There is a huge difference (and that is called "sin") between thinking that a person has a bad haircut that does not suit them, and is even a bit funny (but humorous through kindness) and having degrading thoughts about that person, which is mocking God's creation and a sin. Skin color, as in racism, ought to be another obvious example, one much more serious than the haircut example (though the cruelty of these times regarding a person's appearance is astonishingly destructive and thus serious). Blacks who hate whites and whites who hate blacks are committing individual sins with each and every thought and deed generated by that un-righteousness, since God is neither black nor white, but all are created in his image.
God will not be mocked, as St Paul warns in the scripture. One mocks God not only directly, by making fun of God or attempting to degrade Him, but one also mocks God by tormenting and mocking one of His creations: a fellow human being. Beware of this because hell is getting packed, yet there is always plenty of room.