Wednesday, November 4, 2015

The Problem of Sin

There is another way that our plurality has divided us as the people of God, and this one relates to the idea of sin. Specifically, we have created a language where we believe there is such a thing as a sin, and therefore, many sins.

Again, notice the s.

And again, we may draw some of this language from the Scriptures themselves, which sometimes refers to the sins of a nation or a man's sins that will be held against him. But something happens when we start to get the idea of sins in our heads:

We start comparing them.

We start putting quantifiers and qualifiers on this thing called sin. Some sins are worse than other sins. Some are greater in magnitude. Some are, we argue, more offensive to God than others. And by extension, then, some sinners are more condemnable than others. It's how we've come to the point where certain persons are not welcome in our churches, by the very nature of their "sins," while others continue to be welcome in our pulpits for the very same reason. The pastor's "sins" are not as atrocious as the "sinner's."

Talk about drawing lines.

What we need to understand is that in the eyes of God, there are not many sins. This idea we have of multiple ways to offend God is our own construction. There is but one way to grieve God, and that is to sin against Him. Singular. There is one sin, and that is the breaking of His holy heart.

Sometimes, I think we need to be reminded of that. I think we get too caught up in our lists, in our own judgments of what sin is. We pray for forgiveness, for all the big and little things we do, and somewhere along this spectrum, we lose even sight of God. Ask yourself, for example, which of your so-called "sins" you still consider as offensive to God. Does a little white lie grieve Him or do you consider that simply a falling short of your own nature? Is it a sin against God in your own mind or merely a sin against yourself? This is what happens when start trying to qualify our sin as more than one thing.

But sin is one thing, and one thing only: it is an act of rebellion against God. And when we stop talking about sin as a bunch of different possible things we can do, we come to a startling conclusion: we can no longer justify it. When sin is but one thing, this one thing, it must be justified.

Only God can do that, for only God is grieved.

These distinctions are hard. They're subtle. They don't seem to mean a whole lot until you put some skin on them and figure out what they really mean. If there is no such thing as a sin, but there is only sin itself, then we are all on the same playing field. Any man, woman, saint, sinner, is welcome to walk through our doors and be counted the same. When we look at ourselves, we cannot escape the conviction that we have grieved God, whether what we have done seems to be a small thing or not. Because we recognize sin for what it is: one thing. And not just one thing, but one thing that puts us all on the same playground.

For we are all sinners. Plain and simple. No man more than any other, by nature of his "sins," but all of us the same, by nature of our sin.

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