If I had to rank the emotions that I experience on a regular to semi-regular basis, I think I’d rate guilt a Hippo-in-the-100-meter-dash, laughable last-place.
Side-note: I was just informed that the Hippopotamus can in-fact run up to 19mph over short distances (sprints) and is one of the most dangerous animals in Africa; and that local lore postulates that Hippos kill more people each year than lions, elephants, leopards, buffaloes and rhinos combined. Ok.
I amend my previous analogy. Sloth. A sloth-in-the-100-meter-dash, laughable last place. That works.
Regardless, it is a horrible feeling. You feel uncomfortable in your own skin. You internally berate yourself for being so bad, so weak, so selfish… so gross.
“What was I thinking?” you ask. “Why in the world did I do that?” you plead to the universe. Well, the universe is out of the office today. Leave a message.
So there you are. You’re left Riddled with Regret, and Simmering in Sin, maybe even cornered by condemnation because of what you’ve done, or said, or thought. But we all feel it. It hurts. We’ve all had a taste of the pain that guilt brings. Unfortunately it’s a part of the human condition. We sin. A lot; and at times it can feel like the proverbial weight of the world is on our frail human shoulders. I can personally attest to feeling what I can only describe as a pressure on my soul when I’m deep in the aftermath of the latest failure I committed (whatever it may be). A heaviness that kind of sits on my heart. It can literally feel hard to breathe sometimes.
I started to think about this at the gym. Why at the gym, you ask? I was doing pull-ups. With a bad left shoulder. It’s a blast. So, I would jump up, grab the bar, do around six, then hang there for a few seconds to give my shoulder a moment’s respite from the sharp-stabbing-knife-icepick-blender-of-death-and-hurting-cornucopia-of-agony that lives at the head of my Humerus, and then struggle through the rest of my set of 10. It was during one of my gravity defying breaks that I noticed something. It was really hard to breathe. As I hung there, arms fully extended, tension holding my chest open and the weight of my body pulling down on the rest of me, it was difficult to draw in a full satisfying breath of fresh air.
From there, my mind light-speed / pin-balled from the Bajau people who live in the waters off the islands of the Philippines and Indonesia whom can hold their breath for up to five minutes (it’s crazy, they’re genetically designed to go without oxygen for long periods of time). Then to Guantanamo Bay and how waterboarding must feel, and then, because of the position I was in, arms outstretched, my mind flew to Jesus.
Jesus. My Lord, nailed to a long wooden beam, then affixed to another to form a cross.
I finished my set and dropped to the ground.
He hung there for hours. Weak, beaten, scourged, cut, stabbed, starving, dehydrated, sleep deprived. For hours he fought for every breath. But wasn’t there more weighing him down? That thought gnawed at the back of my brain until later that night when I had to put this to keyboard to get it out of my head. We say that our Lord Jesus died for our sins, but what does that really mean? Well, let’s do some math!
Let’s look at the belief that sins weighs on us. How do you quantify that? If it had mass, how much would a sin weigh? Six ounces? A hundred Kilos? Five thousand pounds? Undoubtedly in this argument some sins would weigh more than others. Cursing at someone would weigh more than stabbing someone in the eye with a fork. Having an impure thought about a member of the opposite sex would carry less weight than having an affair and blowing up your marriage. Now that’s not how God sees it, but for the sake of the equation we’re creating, and our sanity, let’s set the weight of a sin (regardless of severity) at an arbitrary pound. A single pound per sin. Sixteen ounces of sorrow every time you go against God’s word.
The next criteria to compile would be total sins committed per person. To this point in your life how many times have you sinned? Be honest. If you can’t nail down a number, don’t feel bad. Neither can I. A BA-JILLION? (Which by-the-way the Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines as: “[a] huge, unspecified number: Used for emphasis”) I checked.
I sin so many times a day I don’t know that I could keep track for more than a few hours, or minutes… To be honest, my stupid brain offered up some colorful profanity which I just mumbled under my breath after I knocked my phone off the desk with my elbow. But we need a number and for the sake of our equation we’re creating. So let’s set the number of sins per human lifetime at a comically absurd fixed rate of, five.
With our two set parameters: one-pound of “weight” per sin, and a fixed rate of five sins per human lifetime, we get a grand total of (drumroll please…) five pounds of sin per person. Five pounds; doesn’t sound like a lot, and it’s not. The actual sin and regret of a lifetime can prove unbearable for some. If we theorize about the actual number of times per lifetime a person may commit a sin, we are talking about hundreds-of-thousands, maybe millions of pounds per person. An unthinkable amount of burden for any one individual. Imagine turning off the light and snuggling into bed at night with the weight of three-hundred fully-loaded, four-door, Chevy Tahoe’s balanced precariously on your chest. Sometimes it’s a wonder that we get any sleep at all.
Back to what our Lord did for us. We have the weight of sin per lifetime, but Jesus didn’t just take my sin, he took ALL sin. Ever. We have to address the question of people. According to the “2017 Revision of the United Nations Population Division, World Population Prospects”, there are roughly 7.68 Billion human beings on planet Earth (give or take a few). That number increases by around 1.2% per year which equates to about Eighty-Eight million new passengers on this big blue floating rock we call home every twelve months.
If the reproductive rate of increase stays constant over the next 30 years, we can expect to be fighting for elbow room (and food, and water, and clean air) with just over 9.3 Billion (low variant) to 11.1 Billion (high variant) other people by 2050. There are many out there who speculate that we will never hit those numbers for a number of reasons. Some of these include war (nuclear and / or biological), famine, lack of clean drinking water, declining birth rates in developed countries (i.e. the United States) for social and economic reasons, and diseases (like Malaria, E-bola, AIDS, H1N1-2-&3, the host of once thought-to-be eradicated viruses that are making a comeback due to the anti-vaccine movement, a mass extinction event like a meteorite the size of Texas smashing into Canada, or a maybe yet unknown mutated global pandemic virus that will in the near future kill us all or kick off the real-life version of the Walking Dead).
Regardless, that’s a lot of people. But that’s today; how many people have there EVER been? Ever? Total? How many souls have played their part in the cosmic play before taking their final bow?
According to many researchers who’ve dedicated their studies to population demographics, one being Carl Haub, who was a senior demographer at the Population Reference Bureau (PRB), a U.S.-based nonprofit focused on global population, health, and environmental issues, the human species as we know it today began roughly 50,000 years ago. This secular theory begins with what is called the “Adam & Eve” starting point. Bearing no theological connection for the people it was named for, the theory states that around 50,000 years ago (many would like to, and have pushed that date further back) two mysterious people were the genesis of the human race we know today. There is no data to draw upon to prove the theory so a fixed number and date were set to facilitate the mathematical equation.
The theory holds to three bench marks. One being the genesis of two individuals, or the nameless “Adam and Eve”; Two being around the year 8000B.C. when the we reached five million people; and lastly around the time Jesus Christ was born when humans numbered a little over 300,000,000. Using these three benchmark points, The U.S Census Bureau, The United Nations, and PRB puts the total number of people to have ever lived on Earth to be at around 109,947,781,641 (One Hundred-Nine Billion, Nine Hundred-Forty-Seven Million, Seven Hundred-Eighty-One Thousand, Six Hundred-Forty-One, give or take a few) in the year 2017. Presently you would have to add another 2 years of population growth to that number to be accurate.
To explore the topic from a faith based point of view (which was not as easy to find) I found some information on a Christian perspective of human population. The Institute of Creation Research, and Physicist and Bible Scholar Lambert Dolphin each had a take on the sum total of world population from creation.
In his paper “World Population since Creation” Dolphin speculates that from the time of Adam and Eve to the flood there could have been (at the low end of the spectrum); over 3 billion people living, to the high in upwards of 10’s of billions. Some factors that allowed for these numbers to be plausible are named in the Bible. One was the lifespan of the average person. Pre flood and for some time after the human lifespan was upwards of 800 years. It’s postulated that the lack of pollutants in the air, water and food, and the atmosphere being more rich in oxygen and better equipped to keep most, if not all ultraviolet radiation from reaching the surface were all major contributors. Adam lived for 930 years, and if you average the lifespans of the nine antediluvian patriarchs you get a lifetime of about 912 years. That’s almost a millennia to live, marry and breed.
Post flood, Noah and his family numbered 8 and the life expectancy drops off dramatically to close to what it is today. After this time the numbers seem to stick roughly to the previous benchmarks set by the US Census Bureau. Dolphin puts the “world population at the time of Abraham at 5 million,” and “the world population at the time of Christ, between 200 and 300 million” (Dolphin, 2007). By the best guesstimates, estimates, and calculations, all told the number of souls that the Lord has allowed to live on Earth totals around 140,000,000,000…give or take a few.
If we average the secular and Biblical totals we get 134,973,890,820. Let’s call it 135,000,000,000 to clean it up.
Now we have the total number of people that have lived on Earth, the average number of sins a person commits per lifetime, and the arbitrary “weight” of a sin. But we need to address the heart of the matter. Let’s push our calculations off to the side for a moment and look at what our Lord did for us.
The Lord of all creation chose to, of His own accord, by His own free will, under no other pretense than the fact that He unconditionally loved (loves) me…pay for my sins with His own human life. He chose to take on human form. Leave the wonders of heaven, set aside his Omnipotence, Omnipresence, and Omniscience to slump through the muddy drudgery of what is everyday life here on Earth.
He chose to be beaten, broken, humiliated, scourged until the pearl white of His bones shone through the holes in His back; struck until He was no longer recognizable as the man He once was. He was twisted, scorned, torn, and mutilated. He chose to be tortured. Mocked by his creations. Cursed. Spat on. Laughed at. He chose to be pushed past the point of physical exertion, where every muscle in His failing body screamed at Him to stop, He chose to walk up that hill. He let the men He created drive spikes through His wrists and through the long bones of His feet. He stayed on the cross. He didn’t have to. He chose to. He wanted to. For a little over six hours Jesus drank in every vibrant, horrible tidbit of pain the human nervous system could process.
He could have ended it all with a thought. All He had to do was wish for it to stop and it would have. In the garden He hinted at that fact. When the mob came to arrest Him Jesus rebuked His followers when they raised swords and struck out to save Him by saying,
Do you think I cannot call on my Father, and he will not at once put at my disposal more than twelve legions of angels? (Matthew26:53, NIV)
Our Lord wanted to go through that day. To willingly suffer…for me…for us. It is staggering when you think about the depth of His love. But now to my idea. The single thought that so unceremoniously interrupted my back workout. The fact that has led us through this rather lengthy (and I must apologize) and possibly boring, half math, half history lesson. There is a moment on the cross when out Lord looked up to heaven and cried out, “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?”—which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46-NIV) Jesus felt alone. Disconnected from God the father. In Habakkuk 1:13 it says:
Thou art of purer eyes than to behold evil, and canst not look on iniquity: wherefore lookest thou upon them that deal treacherously, and holdest thy tongue when the wicked devoureth the man that is more righteous than he? (KJV)
It was at that moment that many believe Jesus took on the sin of the world. God the father cannot look upon sin so at that moment when the inequities of the eons settled on our Lord’s shoulders, God the father severed holy the connection of The Trinity, and The Son was pushed out into the cold. To put it in human terms we can understand, God The-Father turned His back. In essence he completed Jesus’ punishment.
This is what struck me. This is what did, does and will always leave me slack jawed. Jesus took on the sins of the world for all time. Just kind of rolls off the tongue doesn’t it? The sins of the world. We say it without really understanding what that means. Now really think about that statement, the sins of the world. How about the sins of the last five minutes…in South Dakota? Still astronomical. The last two minutes? The last thirty seconds? How many atrocities occurred on Earth today? With roughly 7.68 billion people on Earth, how many sins, from envy to genocide were committed? (You might want to go back now to the meat of this chapter and review the material, were about to use it) How many in one day? A week? A year? Mind-blowing.
In that moment our Lord took on every sin from swearing to rape, from greed to molesting a child, from Mother Teresa to Jeffery Dahmer, from the beginning of time to the end. Millennia into the future. The sick feeling of guilt you feel when you lie, or steal, or hurt someone. The demons that must plague murderers, the sickness of the damned; It didn’t fall on Jesus. It wasn’t placed on Him; He reached out and took it. He fought for it. He placed it on His shoulders like a man puts on a coat. For us, He accepted responsibility for every sick, horrible, depraved, vengeful, hateful, lustful, violent, deliberate, sadistic, selfish thought, word and deed. For all time.
Let that sink in. The next time you sin (or are about to sin) think about that. Every sin you’ve done to this point, Christ paid for, and every sin you will commit in the future is taken care of as well. Kind of puts things into perspective doesn’t it?
There he hung. The weight of His body being willed toward the ground putting an unnatural amount of torque on His shoulders, almost assuredly dislocating them. The anatomical position gravity forced Jesus into made it impossible to breathe because the lungs were compressed, so our Lord had to push up on the nail that was lodged between the metatarsal bones in His feet, and pull down on the spikes in between the radius and ulna bones of His wrists to draw in air. Prolonged torture. Agony. Pain.
But there was more than gravity at work. What is the weight of sin? We came up with a ridiculously low 5lbs of sin per person. Let’s do some math. At 5lbs of sin per person, with roughly 135,000,000,000 people having lived on earth so far that gives us a grand total of 675,000,000,000 (Six-Hundred-Seventy-Five Billion) lbs. of sin that Christ took upon Himself (leaving out the constant rate of population growth and new sins being committed every second that compound that number exponentially); it’s still a cortex melting number.
That’s the equivalent of 2,934,782 blue whales of sin resting on Jesus’ shoulders. Now think about how sick you feel when you have to get something off of your chest. How heavy does it weigh on you? Can you feel it? Imagine…imagine what our Lord did for us. Imagine what He felt. The worst part is I am responsible for it. Well, at least some of it. But there are days when I feel like I’m there, at Calvary, deliberately pushing down on His shoulders while He struggles for breath on the cross.
What is the weight of sin? All I know is that it’s more than I can bear by myself. I struggle fighting gravity to wrestle away a pullup. Sin pulling down on my soul is a whole other story. That’s why I am so eternally grateful that we have a God that is so loving, long-suffering, and forgiving. Otherwise I fear I’d be crushed under the weight. I’m glad the Lord has broad shoulders.
Copyright 2019 V. Nicholas Gerasimou
No portion of this work may be stored in an electronic device or reproduced without the authors express permission.