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Our culture wants us to believe that sin is an old, outdated idea.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.
Well done on this write up.
I’m always amused when the world tells Christians that they are hypocrites when we call out sin. How are we showing Love when we are “judging” others…? They say we should be loving and accepting, as Jesus was. After all, Jesus ate with sinners, spent His time with them, and they say He didn’t treat them in a way that cast them out. They say He loved them. While they are correct to a point, the sinners didn’t stay the same. Jesus’ love changed them. They didn’t keep on in their sinful, shameless ways after their encounter with Him. They followed Him in New Life. I shake my head at even myself, when I (and others) are hypocritical and think that others sin is bad, but it’s alright for me to be doing my little thing. “It’s not hurting anyone…” Wrong. And when someone says they don’t like going to church because it is full of hypocrites, I admit to being one and explain that is EXACTLY why I need to go. If they can show me one person who isn’t, they haven’t spent enough time around them to get to know them yet.
I remember it well Melissa. Most of that heat came from people claiming Christ though don’t forget.
Yes. Maam. It’s only a matter of time until calling anything the cultures loves sin will be illegal. Watch. That when we preach the word out of season.
Hello, Melissa. Great article! Yes, it’s amazing how people hate the word – even many Christians! However, in our mealy-mouthed, PC world we need to start calling things by their real name. Like most people, I shudder at being called a bigot, homophobe or whatever the latest label is, but we Christians need to grow thicker skins. God Bless!
I get why it’s hard. People we love and care about live in sin. Like, of course! They don’t know God. Why would they live his way, right? It’s like when Jesus said to the Jews that the truth would set them free and they were like, we’re Abraham’s descendant and not slaves, what are you talking about, Jesus? And yes, it is offensive to tell people that they are sinful, that what they do is sin, that they’re living in sin, that their choices and the things they love are wrong, that they are inherently wicked, that deep inside they are bad and they don’t want to acknowledge it. But then again, the Bible is offensive, Jesus was so offensive, they crucified him! And disciples are not better than the Master, if the world hates him, it will hate us. Thing is though, sometimes I find that when we call sin what it is, people read it as arrogance and they get defensive. But actually, we’re sinners ourselves and we’re not better than anyone else. We’re just simply letting them know that there’s a cure for this thing that is killing us. Which is hard for them to hear when they don’t even realize that they’re sick. I agree with you, the loving thing to do, real love, is to tell them anyway, cuz we want them to be saved.
We are so programmed to think of sin as the behavior, but as thinking Christians I think we need to look a little deeper. Our behavior is based on what we believe about ourselves, and that is based on what we believe about God . Eve believed God was holding out on her, that she lacked something , and then ate the fruit. If I believe that Gods not here I might then believe I need to make it on my own. This belief in action could look like a prostitute or a workaholic. One is named a sinner and the other is lauded with bonuses and promotions. But at the base of each behavior is the same sin – my belief that God is not in my life.
I believe Jesus looked beyond people’s actions to what these actions stemmed from, and that’s what we should do too. When we are loving enough to care about why whatever behavior is going on, people will respond to that instead of becoming defensive.
Sin is ‘missing the mark’, and having a distorted image of God guarantees that.
Mama of 6
So what happened to your friend, Neil? Is he OK?
Yes, Mama! He’s in the process of making a full recovery! 🙂
Melissa, “inconsequential”? Nope!
I sent today’s writing to one of the pastors in my church.
Amen! We’re not out to win popularity contests-just souls! Great post!
Alright! Alright! Alright!
Christa @ BrownSugarToast
Found you through Challies! Thanks for the post!
Jenny Michelle Rapson
One of the very best things I’ve read in a long time. Thank you Melissa.
It has a good point, my problem with it is when some Christians don’t see rattle snakes in their own path. So, they are there, loudly vocally pointing out a bunch of other rattle snakes, not out of love. But, are actually calling the people themselves “rattle snakes”. Then I can see why those Christians are looked upon as not very loving. There is a way to warn the world in love, and legitimately trying to help others out of true concern for their well being. And then there is just being a judgemental bigot.
This may be your best post ever. Thank you!
People can, and have, reached the place that they don’t want to hear it and you’re not “liked” if you warn them of their sins which will cause them to go to hell! “For this people’s heart is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes they have closed; lest at any time they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and should understand with their heart, and should be converted, and I should heal them.” — Matthew 13:15
They may reply with: “You’re judging me and you’re not supposed to do that.” but that doesn’t change John 7:24. Love warns, even if it isn’t appreciated. The woman who was caught in the very act of adultery was brought to Jesus and the people questioned him, not because they cared about the woman or what was right but because they were tempting him, trying to find something for which to accuse him. Jesus didn’t condemn the woman; he didn’t stone her, but he didn’t okay her sin either, he told her to “…go, and sin no more.” (John 8:4)
That’s what Jesus said then and God’s WORD still says that. Sin is still sin!