Thursday, September 14, 2006

Distinguishing Between Sickness and Sin

Edward Welch in his helpful book Blame It on the Brain? (page 34) suggests the following guidelines for distinguishing between sickness and sin (using biblical categories of the heart and body):
  • "Any behavior that does not confirm to biblical commands or any behavior that transgresses biblical prohibitions proceeds from the heart and is sin.
  • "Any behavior that is more accurately called a weakness proceeds from the body and is sickness or suffering. Sickness or suffering can also be caused by specific sin, but we must be very careful to have ample justification before we make such a link."
These two guidelines are suppose to provide top level boundaries. They are good, but not as black and white as I prefer sometimes. I understand what he is saying but I personally need more details. One thing is clear. Taking the route of first determining if someones behavior (or yours) is sin or sickness is got to be hard work. The ambiguity involved in the two guidelines is enough to frustrate anyone I think. This is an evaluation process where I can see Satan having a ball and confusion to be spread everywhere.


Jeff said...

This dichotomy seems useless. All sorts of sins are considered "weaknesses" - drunkenness, lechery, lying, etc.

ron said...

It seems we often struggle to undertand the total corrupting nature of sin. We die because of sin. Had Adam not sinned there would be no sickness or suffering.

Whether something is described as a weakness or sin, it is a byproduct of man's disobedience to our Creator. Some may suffer more than others, but it is not for us to say one has sinned more than another and that's why they suffer more. This is what Jesus says:

Luke 13:1-5
1Now there were some present at that time who told Jesus about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices. 2Jesus answered, "Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans because they suffered this way? 3I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish. 4Or those eighteen who died when the tower in Siloam fell on them—do you think they were more guilty than all the others living in Jerusalem? 5I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish."

We may choose to medicate, but we cannot deny the primary reason the medication is needed. It is because man has sinned, and each of us are held accountable.

Suffering may not be due to a specific sin, but is is due to sin nonetheless, and if we suffer for Christ, we can only thank God that he has appointed that suffering for purposes that bring Him glory.