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In 1669, four years after the Great Plague of London, a Puritan by the name of Ralph Venning, wrote a book titled ‘The Plague of Plagues’. In it there is surprisingly hardly an allusion to the Great Plague apart from the title. Why? Because Venning identifies mankind’s greatest plague as that of sin. Today the book is published under the title ‘The Sinfulness of Sisn’.

In our age when ‘sin’ is considered a trite thing, nothing more than mischievousness, until, of course, it is a really, really bad sin, Venning’s lengthy treatment of the topic is a vital read. Now and then when my own nature tempts me to belittle my sinfulness the book stands on my bookshelf as a reminder to me of my own sinfulness and even a short read of any section of the book shatters my seduction to being trite about sin.
Sin writes Venning is contrary to the very nature of God. It is virulently anti God and strives even against our best intentions to seduce and make us into the enemies of God [Rom 5:10]; to put us at enmity with Him [Rom 8:7]; in rebellion against God [Isa 1:2]; striving against Him [Isa 45:9]; despising God [Num 11:20]; haters of God [Rom 1:20]; blasphemers, revilers and lastly atheists [Psalm 14:1]. Its aim is to make us God murders or God killers.
There is no greater illustration of the truth of this than the story of Jesus. Mark’s gospel particularly tries to show its readers this truth. Sin, as is the nature of its originator [Gen 3:1] is so subtle, that even the people of Israel and their scrupulously pious leaders succumb to its wiles, accuse Jesus of being demonic [Mark 3:22], plan his murder [Mark 3:6] and place themselves in the place where forgiveness cannot reach them [Mark 3:29]. Oh how clever sin is and how foolish we are!

Against that horrific background of the sinfulness of sin it is amazing – even shocking – that Jesus states the wonderful words [found in Mark 3:28 RSV] ‚Truly, I say to you, all sins will be forgiven the sons of men, and whatever blasphemies they utter;? Notice that he prefaces the statement with the word ‘Truly’ or ‘Amen’ [in the Greek] – this is equivalent to making an oath of honesty and certainty. What grace! The One being offended, reviled and blasphemed, being made an enemy of, offers to His enemy – forgiveness. What a welcome home to those who feel lost. What good news to those who feel the condemnation of their sins. And what a spur to turn from sin and hate its influence in our lives!
Unless of course our wily foe and his weapon called ‘sin’ seduces us to think that because Jesus offers forgiveness so easily sin cannot be that bad. Oh how clever sin is and how foolish we are!
May we hate sin as much as we love our Saviour, the Lord Jesus.