Facing-Up to Sin

If we continue to ignore it, it will destroy us.

Sin and Its Effects and Cure (1)

Whoever commits sin also commits lawlessness, and sin is lawlessness. 1 John 3.4

whatever is not from faith is sin. Romans 14.23

Facing-up to sin
These days it’s not considered good form to talk about sin. Even the very word sets folks to cringing: “sin” – it just sounds so out-of-date, back woods, and judgmental.

In this age of tolerance, churches can try too hard to fit in, and this is what we see in many situations where speaking about sin is simply “not what we do.” We want to accept everyone. We don’t want anyone to feel like they’re “on the hot seat,” looked down upon, or condemned. We know we’re all sinners, so let’s just leave it at that, and focus instead on the more positive aspects of the faith.

But sin is the great tragedy of the human race. Not natural disasters, not terrorist movements, not nuclear or biological or environmental threats, not economic downturn, not political upheaval, not plague, not the cancellation of your favorite TV program – none of these compares with the tragedy of sin when it comes to adverse effects on humankind and the cosmos.

It’s not hard to gin up a conversation about any of these contemporary threats or situations. But try talking with anyoneabout sin and see how far you get. For all I know, you may have already stopped reading by now.

But we’re not doing anyone any good by ignoring this biggest elephant in the room. It’s time we face-up to sin, recognize it for what it is and what it does, and consider the best ways of responding to this devastating and all-pervading affliction.

Sin as affliction
And that’s what sin is, at least in the first instance. Sin is an affliction – it’s something that happens to us. Sin resides within us and grows seemingly of its own accord and corrupts everything it touches. Sin is a spiritual affliction that attaches to us from the moment of conception (cf. Ps. 51.5). Sin establishes us as enemies of God and all things good, from before we are born into the world. Sin darkens our minds, hardens our hearts, corrupts our consciences, and sets us on a path of self-interest from which we are helpless to extricate ourselves.

Sin happens, and it happens to every one of us. And, as we shall see, the presence of sin in our souls is not the only tragedy of sin, because sin in our souls brings ruin and corruption to everyone and everything around us. 

Nothing in creation escapes the tragedy of sin.

Sin as rebellion
But sin is not merely an affliction. Indeed, to look at us, you’d think sin wasn’t an affliction at all, but a welcome condition, something we’re resigned to endure. 

For we are all willing participants in the tragedy of sin. By our refusal to live according to the commandments of God, and our efforts to contain faith to only a few select places in our lives, we confirm by our words and deeds that the sin which afflicts us is the condition we actually prefer.

Sin in our souls comes to expression as rebellion against God and His Word – refusal to obey Him and reluctance to trust Him. Anywhere in our lives we disobey God’s will or think we know better than He, or anywhere we fail to look to God for guidance and help in life, we birth sin into the world and foist its effects on everything and everyone.

Sinners all
We’re all sinners (Rom. 3.23; 1 Jn. 1.8-10). Every human being is born into this world a rebel against God, and while we may downplay the true nature of that rebellion, and even act as if we’d like to have God as our friend, we’re only contriving to indulge our sinful self-interests and to make God our servant in a life of self-deception, degradation, and death.

And there is nothing any of us can do about this tragic situation.

Sin is the great human tragedy. And if we refuse to talk about sin or to deal with it appropriately, we’re only adding to that tragedy and making matters worse. Sin is a tragedy of enormous proportions, because it affects everyone and everything.

But sin, happily, is not the last word in this sad cosmos. 

For reflection
1.  Why do you think Christians these days don’t like to talk about sin? Is it because we aren’t sinners anymore? Or because sin is no longer a tragedy?

2.  What do we mean by saying that sin is both an affliction and a rebellion?

3.  Is it helping our walk with and work for the Lord to ignore sin, or to act as if it’s not a big deal? Explain.

Next steps - Conversation: How would you explain to an unbelieving friend what sin is? Talk with some of your fellow Christians about this question. Then initiate a conversation with an unbelieving friend or colleague by asking him whether he ever thinks about sin.

T. M. Moore

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Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

T.M. Moore

T. M. Moore is principal of The Fellowship of Ailbe, a spiritual fellowship in the Celtic Christian tradition. He and his wife, Susie, make their home in Essex Junction, VT. 

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