Does God Care If We Sin? – Reflections on Holiness

Recently I had a seminary professor ask me if God cared about sin. We were in the midst of a discussion about God’s holy love and His merciful sacrifice of sending His Son to the cross. I find it so easy to get caught up in the scandalous love of God, and this can cause me to lose sight of God’s righteous anger toward sin. So I posed this question to you: In view of God’s mercy, does He still care about sin?

In other words: does God care if we are holy?

Each of us have been in situations where holy living has been skewed as a long list of rules to follow. As a child I can remember running in a church sanctuary. Immediately one of the church elders grabbed me by the shoulders, stuck his pointer finger right in my face, and in a stern voice said to me,”This is a holy place, we do not run in here.”

The portrait of holiness created for us has been a way to act in church and a list of dos and don’ts. We were taught holiness is something we become by not dancing, drinking, having sex, or watching R-rated movies. If we could avoid those evil things, we would be holy. Right or wrong, these were the things we believed the devil used to overtake our lives.

Holiness has often been framed as checklist to mark-off and a mandatory guidebook to read. In light of this, no one should be surprised that many Christians have abandoned God’s call for us to be holy.

The Good News of Jesus Christ dying on the cross for our sins is a key thrust of the Gospel but I do not believe it captures the entirety of God’s desire for His people. Yes, God has chosen to save those who choose to follow Him, but what are we saved to?

Peter fits in this line of thinking as well. In 1st Peter 1, he explains our “new birth into a living hope.” We have received “an inheritance that can never perish, spoil, or fade” (1 Peter 1:3-4). In other words, we have been saved. We have been redeemed from our broken and sinful state, through God’s mercy.

But Peter isn’t quite done. We have been justified, but we are also being sanctified, and we will ultimately be glorified.

Peter goes on later in the chapter to capture the implication for God saving us, in this way: “Do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance…just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do” (1 Peter 1:14-15). Christianity is much more than a one-time stamp of approval where God no longer cares how we live.

God saves us to build in us, a new creation.

We’ve abandoned a pursuit of holiness, and instead, to slowly entered into lives that are comfortable with sin. Since holiness is such an impossible reality, it’s simply easier to believe God doesn’t really care about our sin. His grace covers us.

We are made holy by entering into relationship with Christ. As He justifies us He begins the work of sanctifying us—to create in us His fullness.

  • Holiness is about a relationship. It isn’t about following rules or mandates or a guidebook.
  • Holiness about allowing God’s love for us to create a renewed sense of our own adoration for Him.
  • Holiness is not new behaviors.
  • Holiness is new affections.

God wants us to live in holiness because it ultimately means the affections of our hearts will belong in Him.

Living the Christian life begins with God’s mercy toward us, and a recognition of our need for God, but it must move beyond this toward an affection that changes the way we live.

Holiness is the mark of God’s work in our lives.

—This post is adapted from the book Why Holiness Matters. Learn more about an exclusive offer for purchasing the book—


Tyler Braun is a pastor from Portland, Oregon whose first book, Why Holiness Matters, just released. You can find Tyler on Twitter or his blog.

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  • Brzcjennifer

    I believe that many times as believers we are taught that if we follow certain rules that then we have a relationship with Jesus, we can become hung up on traditions.  (holiness and traditions can be confused) When we give our life to Christ and if we will allow him to transform us into a new creation ,then we want to please him and live a life that is pleasing to God. Then Holy takes on a new meaning for us.

    • Yes absolutely. We need to reframe holiness without traditionalism getting in its way.

  • “Holiness is not new behaviors.Holiness is new affections.”
    That makes sense to me. Thanks.

    • Though my historical Anabaptism tells me that new behaviors are signs of a new affection, just as the fruits of the Spirit are signs of the Spirit’s presence and we are to judge a tree by its fruits.

      • I wouldn’t disagree with this Andy but I would go back to staying connected to The Vine and The Branches piece in John 15. Keep our focus and affection on The Father and we won’t have to worry about the fruit.

  • For me, it’s really really important that God cares whether I sin. When I’m experiencing some kind of temptation (like lust) it’s really easy for me to think “oh God’s not paying attention, it won’t matter to him, if I ‘do the right thing’ it’ll be harder and no one will even appreciate my effort towards resisting temptation.” But in reality, God does see and God does care when I make choices to obey him. He is jealous- he doesn’t want my affection/loyalty to go toward anything sinful.

    • It creates all sorts of theological issues if we think God doesn’t care. But we sure enjoy living as if he doesn’t care.

  • Very well said.  Looking in the mirror of God’s Word, I know I’m not holy – but looking in the mirror of God’s grace, I am made holy.

  • Simon

    Excellent piece, very often this subject is dealt with by the heavy hand of legalism. The more I travel on the journey with Christ the more I realise everything revolves around relationship.

    • I like to think of it as affection-driven holiness, where God’s love for us drives us to devote our lives to Him.

  • Kaitlin McDuffie

    Nothing profound but I just wanted to say thank you for writing this. Struck a chord with me.