The Bible’s View
Do We Suffer for Our Sins?
“THEY should not be allowed to get away with it!” Have you ever heard someone say that, after having suffered some injustice that he had been helpless to correct? People often get angry when someone sins against them with apparent impunity. They feel that the person should “pay” for what he did. Do we “pay” for our sins? What does the Bible say?
According to the Bible, we are all sinners. Since people suffer for their sins, we should all suffer. We have inherited sin and imperfection from our first father, Adam. (Gen. 8:21; Rom. 5:12) And to that inherited Adamic sin, we add the many, many sins that we personally commit due to imperfection.—Rom. 3:23; Jas. 3:2; 1 John 1:8.
Do we suffer for these sins? Yes, indeed. The apostle Paul stated: “The wages sin pays is death.” (Rom. 6:23) From Adam’s time until now, man has experienced the truth of that statement. He has been suffering imperfection, sickness and eventual death because of sin.
Another result of sin is alienation from God. Jehovah is “too pure in eyes to see what is bad.” (Hab. 1:13) Hence, sin creates a barrier between man and his Creator. (Isa. 59:2; Col. 1:21) Sinful men suffer because of not enjoying to the full the blessings coming from a close relationship with God. And they suffer too because of following the course of human wisdom instead of God’s wisdom. Many of the apparently unsolvable problems in the world today are a result of the alienation of man from God.—1 Cor. 3:19.
Jehovah lovingly purposed to save mankind from this situation. He sent his own Son to earth to provide a ransom for us. Jesus came and suffered death. But his suffering was for our sins, not for his own. (1 Pet. 2:21, 24) Because of this act of extraordinary loving-kindness, we have the opportunity to cease from suffering from our sins, and to live forever. As Jesus said: “God loved the world so much that he gave his only-begotten Son, in order that everyone exercising faith in him might not be destroyed but have everlasting life.”—John 3:16.
Does this mean that men no longer suffer for their sins? Well, until the ransom sacrifice is fully applied in God’s new order, we will continue to get sick and die. (Rev. 21:3, 4) But those who ‘exercise faith’ do have a lightening of the load. By means of Jesus’ sacrifice, they are being reconciled to God. (Col. 1:19, 20) In other words, they have a relationship with God. They can pray and be heard by him. (1 John 5:14) If they commit a sin due to imperfection, they can go to God through Jesus Christ in prayer and confess their sin. And their sin will be forgiven. (1 John 2:1, 2) Also, they have the certain knowledge that, eventually, they will be able to gain eternal life. Even those who die will be resurrected so as to have this opportunity. (John 5:28, 29) In this way, God has greatly alleviated the suffering, due to sin, on the part of those who exercise faith in him and his Son, Jesus Christ.
However, those who adamantly refuse to accept the ransom sacrifice, but who choose to remain willful sinners are given a very serious warning. On the coming “day of vengeance” they will suffer the “judicial punishment of everlasting destruction” without the hope of a resurrection, if they will have refused to change their sinful course. (2 Thess. 1:9; Isa. 61:2) This is an everlasting annihilation, a complete cessation of life for all time.
For Christians who do accept Jesus’ ransom sacrifice, does this mean that it does not matter anymore if we sin? Not at all! Jehovah still hates sin in all its manifestations. (Prov. 6:16-19) Hence, we should never feel that it is all right to give in to temptation, and then plan on repenting and being forgiven on the basis of Christ’s sacrifice. Our love for God and appreciation of the ransom sacrifice will move us to adopt his attitude toward sin. “Lovers of Jehovah” are urged to “hate what is bad.” (Ps. 97:10) Hence, we will fight every tendency to sin that we find in our own bodies. (Rom. 7:21-23; 1 Cor. 9:27) Then, if we do sin because of imperfection, Jehovah will forgive us.—1 John 1:9.
Besides, the Bible shows that there are other ways that a person can suffer for his sins. Reflecting on these may help a Christian to develop the same hatred of sin that God has. For example, if a sin happens to be against the law of the land—as in the case of murder or stealing—a person can suffer imprisonment or something even worse because of it.—Rom. 13:3, 4.
Even if the sin does not happen to be against the law of the land, it can cause suffering. Regarding the sinful, immoral practices of his day, the apostle Paul said that those practicing such things ‘receive in themselves the full recompense, which is due for their error.’ (Rom. 1:27) Because of the widespread “new morality”—which in most cases is simply the sin of immorality—there is an epidemic of venereal diseases, as well as unwanted pregnancies, abortions, broken marriages and emotional instabilities. Surely, people having such unhappy experiences are suffering because of their sinful course.
Yes, the Scriptural rule holds true: “Whatever a man is sowing, this he will also reap.” (Gal. 6:7) For example, someone may experience a ‘fit of anger.’ (Gal. 5:20) Afterward, he may approach Jehovah in prayer and beg for forgiveness. He may come to feel that forgiveness has been extended to him. Meanwhile, however, he has to suffer the pangs of his conscience, and the difficulty of going to the ones affected and mending relations with them.
A more serious sin may bring harder consequences. Imagine a married Christian man who commits adultery in a moment of temptation. Of course, if he is truly repentant, Jehovah will forgive even such a serious sin. But just think of the suffering the man’s conscience will inflict on him first! Reflect on the embarrassment of going to the mature Christian men in the congregation to confess the wrong and request their help. (Jas. 5:13-15) Think of the anguish that the man’s mate will feel, and consider all the efforts that he will have to make gradually to rebuild trust and unity in his marriage—if his wife forgives him at all! How much better not to sin in the first place!
So, then, do we suffer for our sins? Undoubtedly, we do. Because of Adamic sin, man has been suffering sickness, death, imperfection and alienation from God throughout human history. Even in our everyday life, we often suffer the natural consequences of the sins we commit. Hence, nobody “gets away” with sin. But are we not grateful to Jehovah God and Jesus Christ that we can now have the hope of escaping from sin’s baleful influence, and of gaining eternal life with no more suffering due to sin?