FOR THE SINS OF ANOTHER

Freddy, you are the one who’s queer

How could you do this to me?

Why do you seek the living among the dead?

Derek Webb, singing to Fred Phelps about graveyard protests

Liberals tell us that God does not punish anyone for the sins
of others. And then quote Jeremiah 31: 29—“they shall no longer say: the fathers have eaten sour grapes, and the children’s teeth are set on edge. But everyone shall die for his own sin.” Ezekiel 18 also teaches that the soul who sins shall die.

Jeremiah and Ezekial wrote to people in exile who were suffering for the sins of an earlier generation. In context, the prophets’ assurances that the solidarity of the present generation to their fathers’ guilt would no longer continue functioned as encouragement to repentance. That specific situation is no reason to contradict other Bible texts which teach corporate responsibility.

For example, Romans 5 is very clear that all humans are born imputed with Adam’s guilt. Only a liberal individualist would deny original sin. There are numerous other examples of corporate responsibility in Scripture. For example, in Joshua 7, thirty-six Israelite soldiers die on account of the sin of Achan, and then his family members are executed with him because of his sin. In II Samuel 2, seven of Saul’s sons are executed for their father’s sins.

What God in his sovereignty ordains gives us humans no excuse to hate or punish sinners. Even though so many soliders have died because of the sins of Bush and Obama, this historical fact does not mean that their deaths are justified. Deuteronomy 24:16 explicitly prohibits humans from killing one person in the place of another: “Fathers shall not be put to death for their children, nor children put to death for their fathers.”

This means that we cannot read the face of providence (as Fred and the Westboro group attempts) and determine that it was divine justice that caused so many Iraqi soldiers to die for their country. God ‘s judgment extends further than ours . God will judge the secrets of our hearts (Romans 2:16, Hebrews 4:12), but we humans cannot and should not try to imitate the coming apocalypse.

Some liberals  think that any notion of God being judgmental in the future only leads to violence now. But historically that is not how the “peace-churches” have understood it. Instead of reading current events as providential judgments, we have quoted Romans 12: 19—“Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.”

In Luke 13: 4-5, the Lord Jesus responded to those attempting to interpret current events: “Those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them; do you think they were worse offenders than all the others who lived in Jerusalem? No, I tell you, but unless you repent, you will likewise perish.” That threat from Jesus is not an endorsement of redemptive violence, not an excuse for us to kill anybody.

God judging justly is one reason we are not to kill. The other reason we are not to kill is that, when the soldiers killed Jesus, “He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree.” (I Peter 2:24) Liberals will tell us that this event was only humans killing another human and that God had nothing to do with it. But I Peter in context assumes that God does indeed punish His Servant for the sins of the others. I have no space left now to reflect on the wonders of Isaiah 53: “Yet it was the will of the Lord to crush him; he has put him to grief; his soul makes an offering for sin…”

As I Peter 3:18 has it, “Christ suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous.” There is no need for any of us to be killing, since there is now no other sacrifice for sins. Liberals  will deny that Jesus was punished for the sins of His friends, but it is that very hope which serves as the reason for patience in the face of current tragedies. I Peter 2:21—“leaving you an example, so that you would follow in his steps…when he suffered, he continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly.”

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3 Comments on “FOR THE SINS OF ANOTHER”


  1. You are quite right that we sometimes bear the burdens of others’ sins. Under the providence of God, that is inevitable in a fallen world. The beautiful thing is when, under the influence of the love and example of God, we bear the burdens of others’ sins willingly and in a spirit of self-sacrifice, as Christ Himself did for us on the cross.

  2. markmcculley Says:


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