Wednesday, September 15, 2010

That Little Word

When I was kid the number one subject at my little church was sin. Nothing else even came close. We talked about sin, the preacher (my father) ranted about sin, we listed sins, we compared sins - we knew we were sinners and we knew everybody else was too, even if they would not admit it.

At our church meetings we ended the service with an "altar call" to sinners - when we had a revival or gospel meeting the speakers goal was to get every sinner down that aisle, confessing their sins, weeping, and begging for forgiveness. The unconfessed sin was the target - did you lose your temper today? did you have a lustful thought? did you speak a careless word? Truth be told, I had done all of those things and did them most everyday to some degree or another. But after a while it all just seemed crazy - why did we have to make a spectacle of our sins? I had been down the aisle several times. Yes, I was a sinner but I hated the circus atmosphere so much that I determined that come heaven or high water, I would not go down that aisle! This made me more of a target than ever - the visiting evangelist would move toward me - looking straight at me, as we sang "almost persuaded" but I never was - it was a test of the wills and I stood my ground.

The word "sin" has fallen out of favor these days. You can do about anything and it will never be called sin. We talk about all the results of crazy behaviors but we rarely speak of these choices as sin. Drop the word sin in a conversation with your co-workers in the corporate world and you will get some funny looks.

The typical overreaction has occurred. We hated the way sin was used as a manipulation tool by churches and preachers and parents so much that we "threw the baby out with the bath water"! Now we don't know how to talk about sin in a way that makes sense to people.

Anthropologists have found something true of all human cultures - acts of wrongdoing cause a sense of guilt and regret.

I would love to recover the word sin in our vocabulary. Not so we can beat each other up but simply because it restores a true sense of responsibility for my actions and yours. When I hurt someone it matters. We see so much that is destructive and evil in our world and when the word "sin" becomes illegal to use, something has gone wrong.

Balance is always tricky. We can do better.

Just thinking, Steve