by Rayola Kelley
Q: I have heard that God turns His back on sin. In fact, some imply Jesus cried on the cross about the Father forsaking Him because He turned His back on Him. My question is if God is love, how can He turn His back on us, or His Son because of sin?
A: I think that people become confused about this matter because they try to bring together three different issues. It is true that God loves us, but such love does not rejoice in iniquity, only in truth (1 Corinthians 13:6). The reason for this is because God in His love is committed to bring us to our highest potential. His desire is to save us and bestow upon us the best heaven has to offer.
The second matter is God hides His face from sin. Isaiah 59:2 makes this very clear, “But your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid his face from you, that he will not hear.” As you can see, the concept of God hiding His face away from someone because of sin is in relationship to hearing their cries or pleas to save them. God cannot save people in their sin no matter how hard they cry or plead in their plight. They must repent and receive the provision of His Son before He can save them from the devastating consequences of sin.
It is important to point out that God is holy. He cannot look upon sin without judging it. It is for this reason He has provided the sacrifice of His Son. When sin is present, He displays longsuffering towards the person in order to give him or her time to repent so that he or she will not perish in his or her sins (2 Peter 3:9). However, do not be mistaken, sin will not be overlooked, tolerated, or accepted in any capacity by Him.
In relationship to Jesus, the Father did not forsake Him on the cross. God will never forsake the righteous. Granted, Jesus became a sin offering. He paid the price for our sins as man. It is also a harsh reality that sin separates and isolates, as well as wounds the spirit and bruises the soul. We are told by Scripture that Jesus experienced everything man experiences in His flesh, except committing sin (Hebrews 4:15).
This brings us to another aspect about sin. Most likely in His humanity, Jesus experienced the devastation of sin upon the soul. At such times it does feel as if God has forsaken the person. We can see this even in King David’s case. When you read the Psalms, David made reference to feeling forsaken by God, yet by faith he chose to believe God’s promise and not his feelings. In His humanity Jesus may have experienced the grave feeling of separation from the Father as the Father hid His face with the covering of darkness from how sin was devastating His Son on the cross; but, it was not because the Father was forsaking Him during His ordeal (Matthew 27:45).
When Jesus cried from the cross, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me,” it was mainly to fulfill the prophecy found in Psalm 22:1. No doubt in His humanity, Jesus was displaying the devastation wrought by sin upon that which is pure and righteous. He was giving insight into the distress caused by the physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual suffering brought on by sin. He was also describing the great tragedy that plagues mankind because of sin: being separated from God. However, it was also a fulfillment of Scripture to confirm His identity as the Messiah, the Promised King.
The reality of understanding the reasoning behind some of the events surrounding Christ is that we must remember we can only know in part (1 Corinthians 13:9). What we need to know concerning salvation and the faith walk is black and white. In other words, there is no debate or gray areas of confusion and conflict when it comes to salvation and obedience. However, there will always be points of discussion as to the real implication behind other spiritual matters. There is no problem in having a healthy discussion about such points, but as believers we must always make sure that we do not strip God of His divine character, minimize or do away with the real issue, destroy the intent or purpose of a matter, or adjust it to our way of thinking to make it fit into our comfortable theology.
For example, the real issue concerning the above subject is sin and how God responds to it. In God’s holiness He will have no part of sin. Sin was addressed on the cross by God. Even though Jesus became judgment for sin, sin cannot be looked upon, regarded, or casually observed. It was clearly hidden by the cover of darkness and its claims and consequences upon our lives defeated by redemption.
I just want to caution you about getting too caught up with the various debates taking place in Christendom. As believers, we are told to receive and preach the message of the Gospel, not get caught up with debates that have no merit to them when it comes to salvation. For example, the Gospel is that Jesus died for sin, was buried, and three days later rose from the grave (1 Corinthians 15:1-4). The Gospel and the victory of the cross do not hinge on whether God hid His face from His Son when He was on the cross; rather, it hinges on Jesus’ resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:14).
The Gospel is the power of God unto salvation; therefore, to major in that which will not ensure the salvation of others is to take an unnecessary detour (Romans 1:16). It is for this reason the Apostle Paul stated in 1 Corinthians 2:2 that he did not want to know anything among us, save Jesus Christ and him crucified. In 1 Corinthians 9:16, he stated woe was he if he did not preach the Gospel. In 2 Corinthians 11:3, the apostle’s main concern was that our minds would be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ.
I can tell you that in my couple of decades of service to the Lord, the Gospel has provided ample material to preach and share without having to take detours. It is okay to discuss some of these debatable issues, but the rule of thumb is that if you get the character and ways of God right, much of the confusion surrounding these issues will be cleared up.