I issued forth a challenge here for Christians to try to explain important Christian doctrine in the simplest way possible. There are few doctrines more serious (and empirically verifiable!) than the doctrine of sin. Below, I’m going to attempt to explain a bit about the nature of sin, and why it is so important, as if I were explaining it to someone who knew nothing about Christianity.
That being said, why is sin so serious, and why does it separate us from God?
When we sin, what we’re actually doing is we’re choosing to depart from God. We’re departing from what is holy and righteous—we’re literally departing from God himself. Christ called himself the way, truth and life (John 14:6); to depart from that is to turn off of the path (the way), to forsake truth for the empty promises of sin, and to ultimately be cut off from life. Death is a natural consequence of sin, because sin separates us from God himself, who is eternal life.
To sin, is very similar to saying “I think I’ll go my own way, thank you;” in which case God says, “Your will be done.” So it really makes little sense to complain about the severity of sin, because actually what every person truly wants is what only God can give in himself (eternal life, joy, peace, love, etc.), yet we want to detach these things from God and keep them for ourselves. This, of course, is impossible! No person can attempt to steal what is of God (eternal life, joy, peace, love, etc.) without stealing pieces of who God is. Yet we try. So to think that God punishes sin too harshly is like saying, “I want to separate myself from God, but I think it’s unjust that he lets me do it.” Ultimately we get what we ask for.
When the Bible says in Ephesians 2:1 that the “wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus,” it is essentially saying that “the pay of departing from God is separation (death), whereas eternal life is God’s gift for those who receive the Son (life).” God allows those who wish to seek life outside of him to attempt to do so. However, there can be no life outside of God, because life is one of God’s attributes—so it makes no sense to ask for life apart from God when He is life.
I’ve mentioned before that hell is the ultimate separation from God. This is freely chosen and awarded to people who wish to be away from God’s presence. In God’s final act of love, he allows us freedom apart from himself—which is death.
(What are your thoughts on sin and how it separates us from God? Try expressing them as simply as possible, as if the person you are talking to is completely new to the concept. Try to keep it to a couple of short paragraphs; there’s no need for a dissertation in a conversation!)