A World Without Sin—How?
SHRIEKING cries for help shattered the tranquillity of the early hours of a winter morning in a peaceful neighborhood of Tokyo. For from five to ten minutes, a dozen people heard the desperate screams of a newspaper-delivery woman being chased while being repeatedly stabbed. Not one person cared enough to find out what was going on. She died from excessive loss of blood. “If one of these people had reported the incident to the police as soon as they heard her scream,” said an investigator, “her life could have been saved.”
Although those who had heard the dying woman did nothing worse than simply ignore her, could they rightly claim that they were free of guilt? “My conscience tormented me all day Friday after I learned about the killing,” said one man who had heard her cries. This makes us wonder, What really is sin?
What Is Sin?
Pointing to the consciousness of sin, Hideo Odagiri, literary critic and professor emeritus at Hosei University in Tokyo, Japan, said, as quoted in the Asahi Shimbun newspaper: “I cannot blot out the vivid recollections I have of a consciousness of sins, such as the nasty egotism that exists in a child, shameful jealousy, betrayal behind a person’s back. This consciousness was branded on my mind when I was in elementary school and still torments me.” Have you ever experienced such feelings? Do you have an inner voice that condemns you if you do something that you know is wrong? Perhaps no crime has been committed, but an uncomfortable feeling lingers and weighs heavily on your mind. This is your conscience working, and the Bible refers to it in the following passage: “Whenever people of the nations that do not have law do by nature the things of the law, these people, although not having law, are a law to themselves. They are the very ones who demonstrate the matter of the law to be written in their hearts, while their conscience is bearing witness with them and, between their own thoughts, they are being accused or even excused.” (Romans 2:14, 15) Yes, by nature most people feel disturbed by such acts as adultery, stealing, and lying. Their conscience is testifying to sin.
However, when the voice of conscience is repeatedly ignored, it no longer serves as a safe guide. It can become insensitive and defiled. (Titus 1:15) A sensitivity to what is bad is lost. In fact, today most people’s conscience is dead as far as sin is concerned.
Is conscience the only measure of sin, or is there something that can serve as the absolute standard as to what constitutes sin and what does not? More that 3,000 years ago, God gave his chosen people a law code, and through this Law, sin came to be “recognized as sin.” (Romans 7:13, New International Version) Even conduct that had formerly been somewhat acceptable was now revealed for what it was—sin. God’s chosen people, the Israelites, were exposed as sinners and as such were under condemnation.
What are these sins of which our conscience makes us aware and which the Mosaic Law specified and listed? In the Biblical use of the word, sin means missing the mark with regard to the Creator. Anything out of harmony with his personality, standards, ways, and will is sin. He cannot grant continuing existence to any creation that falls short of the mark that he has established. So a law specialist in the first century warned Hebrew Christians: “Beware, brothers, for fear there should ever develop in any one of you a wicked heart lacking faith by drawing away from the living God.” (Hebrews 3:12) Yes, lack of faith in the Creator constitutes a major sin. Thus, the scope of sin as explained in the Bible is far wider than what is normally considered to be sin. The Bible goes so far as to state: “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”—Romans 3:23.
Origin of Sin
Does that mean that man was created a sinner? No, Jehovah God, the Originator of human life, made the first man a perfect creature. (Genesis 1:26, 27; Deuteronomy 32:4) However, the first human couple missed the mark when they defied the only prohibition God had set, when they ate from the forbidden “tree of the knowledge of good and bad.” (Genesis 2:17) Though they were created perfect, they now missed the mark of complete obedience to their Father, became sinners, and were accordingly condemned to die.
What does this ancient history have to do with sin today? The Bible explains: “Through one man sin entered into the world and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men because they had all sinned.” (Romans 5:12) Without exception all of us are sinners by inheritance; hence, we have come under the condemnation of death.—Ecclesiastes 7:20.
Human Efforts to Erase Sin
Adam passed sin on to his offspring, but he also passed on the God-given faculty of conscience. Sin may give rise to an uneasy feeling. As mentioned before, men have contrived various schemes to alleviate such feelings. Are they really effective, however?
East and West, people have tried to deal with the effect of sin by changing their standards or by denying the very existence of sin. (1 Timothy 4:1, 2) Mankind’s sinful situation may be likened to that of a patient with a fever. Sin may be compared to the virus that causes the symptoms, while the disturbed conscience is comparable to the uncomfortable fever. Breaking the thermometer does not change the fact that the patient has a high fever. Throwing away moral standards, as many in Christendom have done, and ignoring the testimony of one’s own conscience is no help in blotting out the sin itself.
A person may apply an ice pack to relieve his fever. That is like trying to relieve twinges of conscience by going through the motions of Shinto purification rituals. An ice pack may temporarily cool the fever victim, but it does not remove the cause of the fever. The priests and prophets in Jeremiah’s day tried a similar healing for the Israelites of that time. They “lightly” healed the spiritual and moral wounds of the people, saying, “All is well, all is well.” (Jeremiah 6:14; 8:11, An American Translation) Simply going through religious motions and chanting something like “all is well” did not heal the moral breakdown of God’s people, and purification rites do not change people’s ethics today.
By taking antipyretics a feverish person may cause his fever to subside, but the virus is still in his system. The same is true with the Confucian way of dealing with evil through education. On the surface it may help people to turn away from evil, but practicing li only suppresses sinful conduct and does not rid a person of his inborn sinful inclination, the underlying cause of evil conduct.—Genesis 8:21.
What about the Buddhist teaching of entering into Nirvana to rid oneself of sinful inclinations? The state of Nirvana, said to mean “blowing out,” is supposed to be indescribable, the extinguishing of all passion and desire. Some claim that it is the cessation of individual existence. Does that not sound like telling a sick man with a fever to die in order to find relief? What is more, attaining the state of Nirvana is considered to be very difficult, even impossible. Does this teaching sound helpful for one with a troubled conscience?
Liberation From Sin
It is clear that human philosophies on life and sinful tendencies can, at best, only pacify one’s conscience. They do not remove the sinful condition. (1 Timothy 6:20) Is there any way to do this? In the Bible, an ancient book written in the Near East, we find the key to liberation from sin. “Though the sins of you people should prove to be as scarlet, they will be made white just like snow . . . If you people show willingness and do listen, the good of the land you will eat.” (Isaiah 1:18, 19) Here Jehovah was speaking to the Israelites, who, although being his chosen people, had missed the mark of integrity to him. The same principle, however, applies to mankind as a whole. Showing a willingness to listen to the words of the Creator is the key to having one’s sins cleansed, washed away, as it were.
What does God’s Word tell us as to the washing away of mankind’s sins? Just as through one man’s sin all mankind became sinners, through another man’s perfect obedience to God, obedient mankind will be released from their misery, says the Bible. (Romans 5:18, 19) How? “God recommends his own love to us in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8) Jesus Christ, born as a perfect and sinless man, the equivalent of the original Adam before that one sinned, was in a position to carry away the sins of mankind. (Isaiah 53:12; John 1:14; 1 Peter 2:24) By being put to death on a torture stake as though a criminal, Jesus released mankind from bondage to sin and death. “For, indeed,” explained Paul to the Christians in Rome, “Christ, while we were yet weak, died for ungodly men at the appointed time. . . . Just as sin ruled as king with death, likewise also undeserved kindness might rule as king through righteousness with everlasting life in view through Jesus Christ our Lord.”—Romans 5:6, 21.
Christ’s dying for the whole of mankind and balancing the scale upset by Adam is called the “ransom” arrangement. (Matthew 20:28) It may be likened to a medicine that works against the virus causing the fever. By applying the value of Jesus’ ransom to mankind, mankind’s sickly condition caused by sin—including death itself—can be cured. This healing process is described figuratively in the last book of the Bible: “On this side of the river and on that side there were trees of life producing twelve crops of fruit, yielding their fruits each month. And the leaves of the trees were for the curing of the nations.” (Revelation 22:2) Imagine! A figurative river of water of life flowing between trees of life with their leaves, all for the healing of mankind. These divinely inspired symbols represent God’s provision for restoring mankind to perfection on the basis of Jesus’ ransom sacrifice.
The prophetic visions of the book of Revelation will soon be reality. (Revelation 22:6, 7) Then, with the complete application of the value of Jesus’ ransom sacrifice to mankind, all righthearted ones will become perfect and “will be set free from enslavement to corruption and have the glorious freedom of the children of God.” (Romans 8:21) Fulfillment of Bible prophecies indicates that this glorious liberation is near. (Revelation 6:1-8) Soon God will rid the globe of wickedness, and humans will enjoy eternal life on a paradise earth. (John 3:16) That will indeed be a world without sin!
[Picture on page 7]
Jesus’ ransom sacrifice will enable families like this to enjoy eternal happiness