A couple of years ago, I wrote a blog post about a celebrity that went viral. Hundreds of thousands of people read it, and several hundred chimed in to let me know how much they loved or, more often, despised what I had said about the situation. I got plenty of hate mail of all kinds over the post, but I’ll never forget what one woman said to me in the comments section: People like you are the reason that I literally hate Christians.
My reaction to the whole dust up was complete disbelief that people cared so much what one inconsequential girl in west Texas said about the content of a movie. I felt like the most loathed person in America for a couple of weeks–all because I had dared to utter the word sin in the same sentence as the name of a well-loved actor.
Since that time I have learned that this word never goes over well. In fact, using the word is just about the biggest–well, sin–that a person can commit in our culture. Abortion isn’t sin….it’s a choice. Homosexuality isn’t sin….it’s simply a path to happiness. Adultery isn’t sin….the heart just wants what it wants. Pornography isn’t sin….it’s all in good fun. Gossip isn’t sin….it’s a way to share concerns. Pride isn’t sin….it’s standing up for yourself. Gluttony isn’t sin….I’m a foodie. Greed isn’t sin….get all you can while you can.
We are told we need to drop the word sin from our vocabulary. This word, we’re told, is hateful. It is unloving. And, the world’s cries fill our ears, We literally hate you because we don’t think you love enough. Oh, the irony.
But, not just the world. Our churches. Our own Christian brothers and sisters. Stop harping on sin! Just love! You’re giving us a bad name!
And, in love, we go on. In Christ’s name. Trying to kill the sin in our own lives. Trying to encourage others to kill the sin in theirs. Because sin is deadly and dangerous and bad for everyone.
Last week our eighty-four year old friend Neil shot a gigantic rattlesnake’s head right off of its body. Thinking, like any of us would, that the snake was dead, Neil set out to kick it out to the other side of the fence around his property. But, when his foot touched the head, that disembodied snake that Neil thought he had killed managed to bite him. Despite the fact that Neil believed with all his heart that that’s snake’s power to poison him was gone forever, when his foot touched the snake he learned that he was very, very wrong.
Our culture wants us to believe that sin is an old, outdated idea. It wants us to believe that the concept is dead. That it isn’t worth talking about because it’ll just offend someone. But, sin is real. It is as alive and well as that enormous, beheaded rattlesnake. It is destroying someone you know right now. It is destroying you, whether you acknowledge its existence or not.
So, don’t be afraid, dear Christian, to call sin what it is. Being hated isn’t the worst thing in the world. Believe me, I know. But, being buried by the sin that you refuse to acknowledge is a fate worse than death. Sin kills, steals, and destroys. And, worst of all, it separates us from God. Would you let your friends and neighbors walk on a live rattlesnake for fear of offending? Or would you run toward them with urgency, anxious to warn them before they take that step? Sin is real. And, it hurts. Don’t “lovingly” watch the world walk into a den of rattlesnakes. Do what is good and noble and lovely. Talk about sin, and show lost and dying people how to be rescued from its clutches. This is love. This is the gospel.