The Five Wounds
Sin Inflicts
The Human Psyche

     Many Christians are unaware that the Bible lays bare humanity’s basic psychology - from Adam and Eve, our primordial parents, up to and including you and me. It describes what makes all of us tick - the common dynamic that governs how we all think and behave - that over-rides our ethnic and cultural differences, including the many unique peculiarities arising from our often “poles apart” upbringings. Not surprisingly, it’s a dynamic that’s rooted in our response to sin. 

     Genesis Chapter Three briefly describes Adam’s sin - and how his sin dramatically changed his entire spiritual, intellectual, and emotional makeup - a change he passed along to his progeny, meaning all mankind.

Psychology of a Sinner

​​     Then (following their sin) the eyes of both of them
were opened, and they knew that they were naked;
and they sewed fig leaves together and made– themselves coverings.
     And they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden.
     Then the Lord God called to Adam, “Where are you?”
     So he said, “I heard Your voice in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; and I hid myself.”
Genesis 3:7-10

They Knew They Were Naked
Their eyes were opened and they knew they were naked.
                                                                             Genesis 3:10 

     Adam and Eve were well aware of their sin - and so are we. It’s an awareness that’s forever loitering in back of our consciousness - an awareness that, try as we might, we can never completely suppress. Not even sociopaths, who are supposedly devoid of empathy and moral sensitivity, can escape its hold. A revealing story is told of Josef Mengele, the hideous “Dr. Death” of the Auschwitz Concentration Camp. He eluded capture by the Allies following Germany’s surrender in 1945 - and eventually escaped to Argentina and then to Paraguay. In 1960, Israeli agents working for the Mosad tracked him to a hotel in Asunción, but were several days too late to make an arrest. His neighbors at the hotel remembered him well - and told the agents of terrifying screams coming from his room night after night. Josef Mengele, an architypical sociopath, knew indeed that he was naked before God - and the thought tormented him. 

They Sowed Fig Leaves 
and Made Themselves Covering
They sewed fig leaves together and made themselves coverings.
                                                                                          Genesis 3:7     

     We concoct excuses to justify our sins - to hide them from our sight ...
  • It’s not my fault. I was provoked.
  • I’m only human. I resisted as long as I could.
  • How can it be sin when it feels so good?
  • I was born this way.

... but all to little or no avail. The fig leaves we sew together are pathetically inadequate ...

They Hid Themselves from God
Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God.
                                                                                                    Genesis 3:8 

     We hide ourselves from God - because we know that it’s not in the nature of a holy and altogether righteous God to overlook sin or to let it go unpunished. Fear and flight - that’s the visceral response God arouses among men and women everywhere, notwithstand-ing our sometimes fervent protests to the contrary.  

Fugitives and Vagabonds
     Genesis 4:12 provides another graphic illustration of mankind’s response to sin ...  

A fugitive and a vagabond you shall be on the earth. 
                                                                   Genesis 4:12 

     Our response to sin, and the innate fear of God that follows in its wake, has turned us all into fugitives and a vagabonds. A fugitive is forever looking over his shoulder - ridden with anxiety and the fear of impending judgment. A vagabond is always on the move, forever restless - unable to settle down and wrap his mind and heart around a sense of enduring peace.
  • Angst - a sense of misgiving and apprehension - is a one-word description of how it feels to be a fugitive. It’s a word carried over from German and popularized by existentialists during the 1950s.
  • Anomie - a sense of social fragmentation and the loss of moral certainty. It’s a one-word description of how it feels to be a vagabond. It’s a word carried over from French and popularized by students of Emile Durkheim, a renowned French sociologist.
The Five Wounds Sin Inflicts
     A more detailed account of how sin has formed and shaped humanity’s intellectual and psychological makeup - of what it means to suffer from angst and anomie - is found in the Book of Leviticus.  The Book of Leviticus describes five basic sacrifices for sin ...
  • The Whole Burnt Sacrifice;
  • The Grain Sacrifice;
  • The Peace Sacrifice;
  • The Purification Sacrifice (sometimes called the Sin Offering); and, finally,
  • The Reparation Sacrifice (sometimes called the Trespass Offering).

     The Bible tells us that all five sacrifices are consummated in Christ’s one sacrifice on the Cross. Put somewhat differently: it tells us that Christ’s one sacrifice incorporates the meaning of all five sacrifices described in Leviticus. But what’s the meaning of those sacrifices? And why five? Simply put, each of the sacrifices described in Leviticus points to a wound that sin inflicts. Thus, what Leviticus provides us with is the basic, underlying psychology of a sinner - and, since all men are sinners, of mankind generally.
The Whole Burnt Sacrifice
     The Whole Burnt Sacrifice displays God’s wrath poured out on sin in horrifying
judgment. The wound it points to is guilt and the fear of impending judgment.
     What is guilt? Guilt doesn’t arise from mere failure. Most of us can fail at a task
without being plagued by guilt or without succumbing to shame. Thomas Edison suffered through hundreds of failures before inventing the incandescent light bulb. His failures only stiffened his resolve to succeed. No, guilt doesn’t arise from failure alone; it arises from a sense of moral failure. It’s prompted whenever I’m convicted of unrighteousness - which, in turn, leaves me feeling condemned, feeling that I deserve to be punished. That’s why guilt and self-condemnation are always linked. Guilt persuades me that I’m justly condemned and deserve to be punished. You can walk away from failure and begin afresh when a new day dawns - if that’s all it is: mere failure. Failure may prompt frustration - and that frustration may cling to you for a few days - perhaps longer. But eventually you’ll break its grip on your life and begin moving forward again.

     But not so with guilt. You can’t so easily break free from guilt - because your conscience, meaning your intuitive awareness of sin, sides with it. Your own conscience is what lends guilt its dreadful power. How can you be a winner in life if you’re convinced you deserve to be a loser? It’s relatively easy to turn around someone who thinks he’s a loser - if that’s all there is to it. You can help him acquire the skills and amass the resources that will turn him into a winner. But it’s awfully hard to turn around someone who feels he deserves to be a loser. And that’s what guilt does.

     For a whole myriad of reasons, guilt has become a major preoccupation among young adults today; and it’s keeping many of them from moving forward with their lives. It has stripped them of the confidence they need to cross the threshold into adulthood. They refuse to let go of their adolescence. But there’s hope. God knows that you’ve been terribly wounded by sin; and in his mercy he has sent Christ to be your sin-bearer - to suffer the penalty of sin in your stead and free you from guilt.

     The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!”
 John 1:29

     Put your trust in Jesus Christ and begin walking out this truth - and in so doing you’ll be able to move forward in life.

​The Grain Sacrifice
     The Grain Sarifice is the only non-blood-shedding sacrifice. It’s based on a ritual
common to many premodern societies. Premodern societies lacked an organized central government able to provide effective day-to-day protection for its subjects - especially its weaker ones. Consequently, a weaker subject would often bind himself contractually to a stronger subject in a lord-vassal relationship. The “lord” would afford the “vassal” his protection; and the vassal, in turn, would help provide for the lord’s daily sustenance - usually a specified amount of his crop.
     The relationship was frequently confirmed in a simple ritual at the beginning of
each year: the vassal would bring his lord a token of his crop, often in the form of a few grains of wheat or barley, and lay it at his lord’s feet; and then swear his loyalty for the upcoming year. The lord, in turn, would swear to protect the vassal from injustice and harm for the upcoming year. If the vassal failed to serve his lord faithfully, the contract was broken and the vassal was on his own - defenseless and at risk. That, then, is the meaning of the Grain Sacrifice. It symbolizes a contractual relationship between God and man: God affords man his protection; and man, in turn, promises God his loyalty and faithful service.  The contract is valid, however, only so long as man faithfully serves God. And therein lies the dilemma: sin has voided the contract - leaving mankind haunted with the fear of being unprotected and at risk.

​     Unprotected and at risk: a wound the last three generations of men and women here in America feel keenly - many of them having been raised in broken homes, abandoned by their fathers, and left to fend for themselves!   But there’s hope. Christ can heal you of that wound - heal you of the fear that no one cares - that no one is watching out for you. Faith in Christ makes you a child of God, your high-tower, your shield, and your buckler. It will enable you to step out of the suffocating, self-imposed safe zone you’ve erected to protect yourself.

The Peace Sacrifice
     The Peace Sacrifice is essentially a shared meal. That’s its unique feature. God shares in the meal - he is the guest of honor; the supplicant shares in the meal; the supplicant’s family and friends share in the meal; and the officiating priest shares in the meal. In premodern culture, a meal is far more than merely a matter of sustenance. It celebrates “belonging.” Anyone invited to share a meal is being invited to share “family” - to become family. He’s made party to its companionship, love, and joy.

     The wound the Peace Offering points to, then, is alienation and loneliness. Sin disrupts the bonds of love that unite man and God; husband and wife; parents and children; siblings; friends and colleagues; etc. Sin scars mankind with a terrible sense of isolation and estrangement. It leaves us feeling that we’re not welcome; that we’re “odd man out;” that we don’t fit. The National Science Foundation (NSF) has reported that unprecedented numbers of Americans today feel lonely and isolated. It’s becoming a pronounced feature of the American mindset - an American zeitgeist.
     But there’s hope. Faith in Christ will heal you of that wound - and restore to you a sense of belonging, a sense of love, peace, and fellowship. God has set a place for you at his table - and he’s waiting for you to sit down there.

The Purification Sacrifice 
(Often Called The Sin Offering)

     The Purification Offering is all about cleansing. The blood of the Purification Sacrifice was used to cleanse the bronze altar; to cleanse the vessels used in the temple rituals; to cleanse the supplicant; to cleanse the golden altar; and on the Day of Atonement to cleanse the Mercy Seat itself.
     Sin leaves a person feeling grotesquely stained - a stain they’re convinced is plainly visible to everyone. It’s the Scarlet Letter that Nathaniel Hawthorne has written about - the spot on Lady Macbeth’s hand that Shakespeare has written about. That, then, is the wound the Purification Sacrifice points to: a feeling of filth, contamination, and pollution.
     But there’s more: a stained vessel was deemed unfit for temple service. In short, it’s not merely that sin stains us, it also leaves us feeling adrift  - feeling that we’ve been cast aside, that our lives lack meaning and purpose. And isn’t that an apt description of so many of today’s youth? They give little thought to the future. Long-range planning for them often extends out no more than forty-eight hours, leaving them unable to seriously grasp the consequences of their behavior. The result is predictable: more and more of our youth are spending their formative years in prison; drug addiction is rampant; teen pregnancies are once again climbing; standardized measures of school achievement have fallen dramatically, even for students in the top 10% of the distribution curve - and so on.

     The defilement that sin breeds, the loss of purpose and the enervating sense of futility it causes, is reflected brilliantly in T.S. Eliot’s well known poem “The Hollow Men” ... 

We are the hollow men. We are the stuffed men
Leaning together, headpiece filled with straw. Alas!
Our dried voices, when we whisper together, are 
Quiet and meaningless as wind in dry grass
Or rats’ feet over broken glass in a dry cellar

This is the way the world ends.
This is the way the world ends.
This is the way the world ends.
Not with a bang but a whimper.

     But there’s hope. Christ can heal you of this terrible wound - cleansing you of the stains that now define your life, blemish your character, and leave you feeling that life is meaningless ...

Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.
                                                                                                                                 Psalm 51:7 


     There is no stain that faith in Christ can’t expunge - no defilement that it can’t heal. God is well able to both make you feel clean and unblemished and to give you direction for your life, filling it with a sense of significance and purpose. Trust him. Repose your faith in him.

The Reparation Offering
(Often Called the Trespass Offering)

     The unique feature of the Trespass Sacrifice is the restitution that accompanies it. That tells us sin is robbery: murder robs a man of his life; slander robs a man of his reputation; adultery robs a man of his wife; burglary robs a man of his property. Robbery offends our sense of justice - whether we’re the perpetrator or the victim; and, if unchecked, it can arouse a pervasive sense of insecurity  - a feeling that the world is amiss - that it’s “off kilter.” It’s the feeling  of vertigo that Sartre wrote about in his novel Nausea.

     But that’s not all: if what’s stolen isn’t returned to its rightful owner and if the perpetrator isn’t punished, anger inevitably takes hold, turning eventually into bitterness and then into rage. And isn’t that becoming a characteristic feature of American society today - and not just here in America, but throughout the whole world?

     Rage! Senseless, chaotic violence often masquerading as legitimate protest! Hate-filled invective filling the media and subverting the relationships be­tween different social, economic and racial factions - poisoning our nation’s civil discourse, reaching levels that were unimaginable sixty or seventy years ago! Bitterness and rage are all-consuming. They devour a person’s life and eventually destroy it.

     But there’s hope. Faith in Christ will heal you of the nausea and bewilderment that ​​injustice inflicts - the sense of contingency it arouses. It will quiet the anger that’s perverting your mind and heart. It will calm you with the quiet assurance that God will not permit injustice to continue forever; that wrongs will be righted; that what’s upside down will be turned right side up again. Place your faith in Christ and break anger’s grip on your life. 
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