It seems that American culture is having increasing trouble with a particular word. No one in government, few in the public square or even those in the pulpit dare utter this word. It grates on the sensibilities of today’s politically mindset. It’s the “s” word. When you utter it, you are instantly marginalized for your insensitivity, bigotry and hatred. The word? Sin. There, I said it!
There is no doubt that the entire concept of sin has fallen out of favor even in the religious community. We can certainly talk about “shortcomings” or “weaknesses” or the ever popular “mistakes” (a la Rep. Weiner)—but never, ever the big “s” word. Most would admit that this is a fairly new phenomenon. It wasn’t that long ago that vile, repulsive or destructive behavior was openly referred to as sin—if even in jest. Remember Las Vegas being known as “Sin City” or those notorious “sin taxes?” Today, however, the word is not even used in jest and certainly not in a serious discussion. A politician never “sins” they simply make mistakes or make improper decisions. So, why this total aversion to using a perfectly good word?
I submit that, at least partially, it is due to a misunderstanding of what sin really is. The common impression is that, at some time in eternity past, God made an extended list of everything that mankind would find as fun, enjoyable, fulfilling and pleasurable. When He finished the exhaustive list, He wrote across the entire list the word—SIN! If you believe in a Devil, you will recognize this strategy as the one employed on our first parents in the Garden of Eden. The evil Serpent tried to convince Eve that God was holding out on them, that tree in the middle of the Garden must be wonderful, tasty, satisfying—and that was why God didn’t want them to eat. He just didn’t want them to enjoy it. Well, she bit (pun intended) and the human race has been biting this lie ever since. The current generation has an unusually large appetite.
In reality, what is sin? I will spare you all the deep theological arguments and simply state the simplistic “bottom line”: Sin is anything and everything that will hurt, harm and destroy you. Yes, God did make a list. And it is a rather large one. He made a list of everything that would be destructive to His creation and His creatures. Things that would destroy their bodies, their minds, their families, their marriages, their world. The things God labeled as sin are not things that bring happiness, joy, peace, fulfillment, but destruction and sorrow. Yes, many of them bring “pleasure for a season” but, as James writes in the New Testament, “sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death” (James 1:15).
There is the momentous debate on homosexuality and same-sex marriage. God labels both as sin. There is abundant evidence that sexuality apart from God’s plan is dangerous, unhealthy and destructive. Increased disease, reduced life expectancy and a whole host of other negative consequences accompany the decision to ignore God’s plan for sexual relationships. Yet anyone who would dare use the “s” word is immediately labeled a bigot and hate monger. Those who would dare to inhibit someone’s sexual freedom of choice are just trying to withhold something enjoyable, pleasurable. It’s not sin, it’s freedom, they say. In reality, it’s not freedom at all but bondage. Bondage that will ultimately destroy—as all sin does.
God sent His son to save us from our sin. Satan sent his lie to trap us in our sin. The Christian community cannot allow ourselves to be shamed into discarding a thoroughly Biblical concept. Sin is just as destructive as it was in the Garden. It still brings forth death. Popular or not, people still need to be warned and given the good news of the Gospel.
Don’t be afraid to use the “s” word. God does.
Bob Burney is Salem Communications’ award-winning host of “Bob Burney Live,” heard weekday afternoons on WRFD-AM 880 in Columbus, Ohio. Contact Bob at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Publication date: July 11, 2011