Busted Myth #2: God Can’t Look at Sin

In case you’re wondering what the first myth was, it concerned the cliché “forgive and forget. ” That little post brought a few more dumb spiritual slogans to mind.  While “forgive and forget” is profoundly detrimental to the human soul and the  image of God, there is a slogan that perhaps grates me more—“God can’t look at sin”.

There’s a sense in which this is true, however, I think this sense hardly ever is intended.  Why anyone is zealous to tout this little slogan is beyond me. The image I get is of an effeminate God with a weak stomach who looks at sin the same way a two-year-old “princess” would look at her brother’s freshly found slug.  The idea that God responds to sin with a whiny “yucky” is repulsive to me.  The reasoning behind this little slogan is usually that because God can’t look on sin, you, being sinful, cannot go to heaven unless you’re first cleansed from your sin.  We wouldn’t want to ruin God’s vision after all.  It’s not God’s justice, righteousness, wrath, anger, or holiness that’s the issue, but rather a defect in His eyesight.

God’s eyes are not closed.  If they were I would really feel sorry for Jesus because he would have bumped into a lot of stuff since this world is full of sin.  But he didn’t.  Jesus saw sin, exposed sin, and called it what it was, just like His Father.

Where does this foolery hail from?  A bad reading of Habakkuk 1:13.  Funny that a book so few Christians read should sprout such a widely spread slogan.  If they would just read the rest of the verse it would be obvious what the author intended.  The God who cannot look at wrong is looking at traitors.  Looking here means looking on with approval, with apparent blessing.  The essence of being blessed is to have the glorious and gracious face of God shinning down on you (Numbers 6:22-27).  For God to look on you is for you to have His favor and for Him to be gracious in His disposition toward you.  Habakkuk is lamenting that God seems to be looking at sin—apparently condoning it and  blessing it, and that this goes against His very character.  God cannot look at sin with approval, this is what Habakkuk is anchoring his lament in.

God sees sin (Gen 6:5), and yet He turns his face from it (Deuteronomy 32:19-20), but remember the way the imagery is used here.  To be blessed is to have God’s face, to be cursed is for His benevolent face to be turned from you.  Instead of benevolence, God’s face is directed against sin and sinners in wrath (Psalm 34:15-16).  So God’s face is turned away from them in one sense and toward them in another.

If an unregenerate sinner were to appear before God the issue would not be God’s weakness of sight, it would be the sinner’s.  God’s eyes would flame with a holy hatred; the sinner would be condemned and undone.

Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. From his presence earth and sky fled away, and no place was found for them.  – Revelation 20:11

6 thoughts on “Busted Myth #2: God Can’t Look at Sin

  1. the issue isnt that God cant look at us, the issue is that Jesus took upon Himself all our sin, past, present ,future as the sacrificial Lamb 2Cor 5:17-21 and it satisfied our Holy God’s wrath against sin. Now that to me is the miracle of Salvation. more could be said but this is a part. I think we as soft American Christians have no understanding of the aweful sinfulness of our sin and the infinate Holiness of our God.. thanks.

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  2. Thank you for pointing this out, I’ve said this exact phrase before “God cannot look upon sin”, you have made me rethink my statement. I’ve said it probably like most people and due to the fact we just repeat what we hear, just like a good parrot does, it sounded right, right!

    Man is said to have 5 senses: touch, taste, smell, hearing and vision. I believe man has a 6th sense, consciousness, it’s the minds ability to function even without the other 5 senses mentioned. It’s the sense of purpose within man, given of God, it’s within the breath of life. One could be comatosed and yet still have a functioning mind, however, that’s another subject for another time.

    No “man” has ever seen God is due to the fact God is Spirit. We don’t know if Jesus saw God on this earth, it seems, the closest thing we have recorded about Jesus seeing God is God’s voice, within a cloud at the Mount of Transfiguration. So, can God physically see himself? God is Spirit and not just spiritual. Another subject for another time.

    You are specifically dealing with one of the senses given to mankind (vision with a physical eyeball). You addressed it’s not that God doesn’t see sin or sinfulness upon the earth, it’s God won’t allow sin into heaven. We know sin as error or failing to do Gods will as directed. Bob mentioned the antidote for all this sinfulness; salvation of, by, in and through Jesus the Christ…the anointed one of God himself.

    Romans 10:13 For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord, shall be saved.

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  3. Hey, just had a quick question. If God can see sin, then why did he ever turn away from Jesus? As its said “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” That verse confuses me, because we know God turned away from Jesus, but because why? Maybe there’s certain sins God cannot see? Like lust? So since Jesus was taking on “all” sin, God couldn’t look at him because he would’ve seen it? I’m just a bit confused… I know Jesus became sin on the cross, but he didn’t sin.

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    1. When we say, “God turned his back on Jesus,” that is anthropomorphic language to communicate what? Forsakenness. What does it mean that Jesus was forsaken? That He bore the Father’s wrath. That He bore the curse. That Jesus no longer enjoyed the blessed gaze of His father. This is what I was getting at when I said,

      God sees sin (Gen 6:5), and yet He turns his face from it (Deuteronomy 32:19-20), but remember the way the imagery is used here. To be blessed is to have God’s face, to be cursed is for His benevolent face to be turned from you. Instead of benevolence, God’s face is directed against sin and sinners in wrath (Psalm 34:15-16). So God’s face is turned away from them in one sense and toward them in another.

      For a brief treatment of Jesus’ forsakenness you could read this post.

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      1. I had not heard that “God cannot look upon sin” until recently in a discussion about Jesus feeling forsaken on the cross. Thank you for this myth buster.
        You probably know this but to add to information for commenters. When Jesus said “my God, my God why have you abandoned me?” he was quoting the first line of Psalm 22. Like us saying “I pledge allegiance” anyone would know what comes next. First century Jews would have known he was referencing the messianic Psalm that vividly described his agony and death.
        Thank you

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