Sin is one of those icky little Christian words that we don't like to talk about much. It makes us squirm. And most of us have decided that since we are all sinners, a little bit of sin in our lives is not so bad. It's expected. After all, could I be a good sinner without any good sin?
The trouble is that in our reluctance to talk about sin, most of us don't understand what sin is any more. We have so changed the definition of sin that we are able even to justify times when sin is not actually sin.
One of the best-known arguments for such a thing goes something like this: if you were a Jewish sympathizer in Nazi Germany and you had to lie in order to protect the lives of innocent Jews you were hiding somewhere in your home, then lying would not be a sin because it is 1) necessary and 2) done for the greater good of protecting an innocent life.
There are several implications made by this statement, none of which we could actually carry to a logical extreme. If a sinful act is no longer sinful if it is in some way deemed 'necessary,' how far are we willing to go with that? Who decides what is necessary? How can we even know? What if the so-called Nazi standing at the door is actually a fellow sympathizer who is working to get the Jews safely out of Germany and you don't know it? You just lied to him. Is that lie now sinful since it was not necessary?
A second implication is that there is a hierarchy of sin (an idea that God has outright rejected). Since lying is the lesser sin, it is no longer a sin at all. Right? Allowing the innocent to die - that's the sin. Life is greater than truth. This seems to make sense to us. But who sets the standards? We do. Let us not forget that we have a Savior who died for telling the truth. So how does that play into our decision-making? (Sadly, it doesn't.)
Third, this suggests that we have enough information (in fact, all of the information) necessary to make an informed decision about what is the right action to take. But what if, as I said before, the officer at the door only looks like a Nazi. What if we're wrong? Are we guilty of sin because we did not know better or are we held accountable only for what we know?
This is sticky stuff. It's not easy.
Most damaging of the implications of this kind of thought is that it suggests that righteousness is situational. It's circumstantial. It's rooted only in the things that always seem to be changing, in the winds of whatever blows our way. There is no way to know, for certain, what is sinful or what is righteous until the situation is real and then, it seems, what is 'righteous' is our own best judgment.
We could also add here that "sin" appears to be only what is wrong in that situation or what is "bad." Anything that is done for "good" or done for the "right" cannot be sinful.
Do you see the mess we're getting ourselves into? Do you see how troubling and difficult this becomes? It is almost impossible to live with. We've painted ourselves into a box where, not knowing what sin is, we have bought the lie that sin is simply whatever we determine it to be in a given situation based on our own understanding and personal ethic.
In addition to being nearly impossible to faithfully live out, this line of thinking has serious implications for our God, as well. Don't see them yet?