One memory I have of my childhood is of the holidays our family used to have at the seaside. Sunshine, sand, and togetherness—a happy recollection that lasts for a lifetime.
One of my father’s ways of amusing his offspring was to take a spade, and draw a complicated maze in the smooth sand on the beach. The twists and turns we children followed, as we tried to discover the right path, kept us all out of mischief—and then we could spin the time out further by taking the spade up for ourselves, and devising other mazes of our own.
Mazes are strange things. The idea of solving a maze is to find the right path that will take one from beginning to end. Yet if the answer comes too easily, we feel cheated. Taking false paths, seeing our errors, backtracking and then trying something else—it’s all part of the thrill of the chase, until at last we find the right way to go.
Life’s a bit like that maze. There are a lot of false paths we can take before we find “the way, the truth and the life”. And, as Omar Khayam points out, if God never wanted man to sin, He needs to be forgiven for all the opportunities for error that this world affords, starting with the snake in the Garden of Eden. Is it part of God’s plan that we should explore a few of the wrong ways of living, so at last we would learn from experience that the riddle of life only has one true solution? That would account for Jesus’s quite remarkable friendship for the sinners that he mixed with—but also for his insistence that, after meeting him, they “go and sin no more”.
The Greek words we translate ‘sin’ and ‘repentance’ can most literally be translated as ‘taking the wrong path’ and ‘changing the way we think’. They don’t necessarily have the moral sense of ‘good’ or ‘bad’ about them. So should we perhaps simply enjoy our Father’s wonderful world, listen to the good advice we get in the Scriptures, puzzle our way as best we can through the maze of the life path God has set for us, and enjoy the trip? – provided, of course, that we don’t ever give up trying to find the true path that leads us to the heavenly destination!