6/14/17 Jose about 40
Growing up with a religious background was a blessing for Jose, about 40, but he also saw it as a curse. Why? "Because I'm doubly guilty" he said. "Not only do I sin when I do something wrong, but my religious upbringing has taught me to know better, so if I continue to do it, I'm doubly guilty"
"So, logically" I asked, "You are saying ignorance is bliss. Wouldn't it be better not to know it was wrong in the first place?"
"Pretty much" he said. "I guess I'm just building up the time I'll have to spend in purgatory."
Oh how I wanted to help Jose get free from the shackles of this man-made view of religion, and help him experience the peace and joy of true life in Christ. For starters, there is no such thing as ignorance when it comes to sin. We can ignore or avoid the training and discipline that comes from godly parents, reading the Bible, or attending church, but we can't avoid God's general moral law because it is written on our hearts.
We all have a God-given conscience, so avoiding further teaching or training in God's law is like someone who says they aren't guilty of speeding because they didn't know the speed limit. One's ignorance of the law only displays a callous disregard for the lawgiver.
The godly training God makes available isn't for the purpose of making us feel more guilty, but for the purpose of godly living. It helps us recognize not only blatant sin, but the subtle steps that lead us there. It helps us to cut sin out of our lives long before it takes deep root in us, long before it has us in a stranglehold. The godly training of parents, Bible, and church is meant to be there as a blessing, not a curse, and we are blessed when we seek its wisdom.
Jose's misunderstanding of law and guilt feeds right into his belief in purgatory, a teaching that contradicts the Gospel. The belief that we can somehow be "purged" of our guilt through our own suffering is not a strict view of the seriousness of sin, but rather a trivial understanding of its depth and the perfection of God's holiness. The laws we break are the commandments of an infinitely holy God, and his perfect justice requires a punishment that no length of time in "purgatory" could pay.
Hebrews 10 says "It is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins", and as fellow created beings neither can our own. Only a perfect sacrifice - creator, not creation; innocent, not guilty - would be a sufficient substitute for the punishment we deserve.
Only the Son of the most High King, shedding his own blood on our behalf, is sufficient to satisfy God's love for justice, and is also the only perfect expression of God's love for mercy. Purgatory is a man-made substitute and an insult to God's perfect sacrifice of his one and only Son.
So was Jose right, has his religious upbringing been both a blessing and a curse? I believe so, but not for the reasons he had in mind. In the sense of godly training it can be a blessing. But in the sense of promoting human traditions such as the idea of purgatory that distract from the supremacy of Christ, it is a curse.