Sin and Its Effects and Cure (3)
Then those who kept them fled; and they went away into the city and told everything, including what had happened to the demon-possessed men. And behold, the whole city came out to meet Jesus. And when they saw Him, they begged Him to depart from their region. Matthew 8.33, 34
A source of evil?
Sin is a real and present problem among the people of the world. It is the great tragedy afflicting all men and women, and the cause of humankind’s incessant rebellion against God and His ways. Sin brings with it powerful effects, and we don’t have to look too far to observe these. We see these effects, for example, in the way sin blinds otherwise well-meaning and intelligent people to the good that comes from knowing and following Jesus Christ.
British philosopher and mathematician Bertrand Russell was not a friend of the Gospel. In his book, Why I Am Not a Christian, Dr. Russell opined that Christianity has been the source of more evil in the world than anything else. In the name of the cross, he explained, Christians have launched wars, oppressed minorities, enslaved millions, and deceived the masses. Perhaps if Christianity were to go away, the world would be a better place? Just like those ancient Gergesenes, who believed their community would be better off if Jesus would “depart from their region.”
When Bertrand Russell thought about Christianity, all he could see were its evil effects, and he wanted nothing to do with it. If he saw anything good about Christianity, he chose to ignore it or rationalize it away. And because he found nothing to admire in the Christian movement, he found nothing to admire or desire in Jesus Christ as well.
This inability or unwillingness to see the good which Christianity has contributed to the world is evidence of the blinding power of sin. In our day, atheists, pundits, politicians, academics, and unbelievers in all walks of life are blind to the Good News of Jesus and His Kingdom. Increasingly, in the view of many, Christianity is not true and Christians are more a nuisance than a boon to the world. If we need to be reminded that sin is still present and flourishing in our midst, this is as good a place as any to start.
The blinding power of sin
Sin blinds people to the benefits that have come from the Christian movement – benefits such as Rodney Stark has meticulously outlined in his book, The Victory of Reason. People who refuse to see anything but evil when it comes to the faith of Christ simply prove the existence of sin and the power it wields in the souls of men. Sin blinds them to the good works Christ brings to the world and causes them to see only evil instead. Just like those people in Jesus’ day. Jesus had done a wonderful, amazing thing for two members of their community. The report of it spread throughout the village, and everyone rushed out to see this One Who had done such a good thing for two of their neighbors.
When they arrived on the scene, however, instead of rejoicing for the good work done to their neighbors, they urged Jesus to leave. After all, a herd of swine had been lost! Economic downturn! Polluted water! Angry neighbors! Rumors and tumult and confusion! Who needs this?
Similarly, the religious leaders in Acts 5, while admitting that a “notable sign” had been accomplished to restore health to a lame man, they determined to silence the apostles and keep the good work from spreading (Acts 5.15-17). How blind can you be?
People whose souls have been darkened with sin will see the world through sinful eyes. Even the Good News of the Kingdom of God will appear to them to be a bad thing, threatening their autonomy and fun; and they’ll make it their business to spread their distorted view of the faith to anyone who’ll listen.
We in the churches are not helping such people when we refuse to acknowledge the effects of sin in our midst or to address these consistently. The Gospel is Good News, good news which can only be properly understood against the backdrop of the bad news of sin. By downplaying the reality of sin and its many effects, we deprive ourselves of the many good benefits to be gained through repentance and obedience, and we reinforce the unbelieving world’s view that Christianity, if not a source of sin, at least provides sin a safe harbor.
Yes, certainly, there is much in the history of Christianity – and in our churches today – with which to find fault. But overall, as Rodney Stark and others have explained, Christianity has been the source of more good in the world by far. Under the influence of the Gospel the lives of untold multitudes have been improved. Dignity and worth have been restored to women and the poor. Slavery was condemned and eliminated wherever the reach of the Gospel was known. Education has been extended to the masses. Universities, hospitals, markets, democratic governments, works of art, literature and music, business enterprises, charitable agencies, mission efforts, and churches by the thousands have brought salvation, hope, literacy, material support, purpose, delight, and love to people in every nation, tribe, culture, and tongue.
Those who refuse to acknowledge such readily available truth about the goodness that comes from knowing Jesus are simply blinded by the sin of their own hearts. And the fact that many such people exist in our day is just one of the powerful effects of sin.
The people of Jesus’ day sinned by sending Him away. They were more concerned to preserve their status quothan to explore the mystery, wonder, and power of the new life He came to bring, and with which He had endowed the last, the lost, and the least of their community.
If we need evidence of the power and tragedy of sin, all we have to do is listen to the ways sinful people distort the obvious facts about the faith of Jesus Christ. Sin is still at work in our world, and it doesn’t do our neighbors or us any good to maintain silence about it. Denying their sin, they deny the goodness of God as well, and this should serve as a warning to us in the church about the danger of not facing up to sin.
1. How has the Gospel brought good into your life? What would you say to someone who said Christianity was a source of more evil than good?
2. Meditate on 1 Peter 2.15. What are the implications of this for your own Personal Mission Field?
3. What does it take to open blind eyes to the truth that is in Jesus? What is our role in this?
Next steps – Conversation: Ask an unbelieving friend: How much do you know about the contribution Christianity has made to the wellbeing of the world? Be prepared to share some of your own observations about this matter.
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.