Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Talking About Sin --Or Not

The people in Utah are divided over any number of things; we don’t gamble here, but... head to Wendover, NV, and count the Utah License plates on cars in the Casino parking lots. We don’t have a lottery, but... head to Malad, ID and do the same count. And I’m pretty sure that in no time at all the marijuana laws in Utah will result in a lot of cars from Utah filling parking lots in Colorado.
            Until just a few weeks ago same sex couples couldn't get married in Utah, then they could, now they can’t. Polygamous relationships were once allowed, perhaps even encouraged, then outlawed, and now they’re not quite as frowned upon, at least by the legal system.
            The clean air act prohibits tobacco products in many places, but e-cigs aren't tobacco, so you can smoke where you can’t smoke. Caffeine in the form of coffee is frowned on, but Mountain Dew? That’s quite a different story.
And my perspective, like yours, depends on how it affects us personally.  One of the things that I've come to realize lately is that our take on social issues, like our take on sin, typically depends on whether or not we “indulge” (directly or indirectly, personally involved, or someone close to us is).  And when it comes to sin, just ask 50 people what sin God hates the most, and you’re likely to get close to 50 different answers. Most of the answers, though, will have one thing in common – something that can be explained in one sentence that goes something like this:  The sin that God hates the most is one that I’m not involved in.
But God says that sin is sin, and as painful as that might be to admit, we don’t do anyone any eschatological favors when we convince ourselves and them that their sin is not really sin. Yes we all want to be politically correct, we don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings, and of course we don’t want to get in trouble with any of the activist groups that will target us and try to make us look bad. But in trying to stay on everybody’s good side, we forget about God's Word, and we forget about staying on God's good side. Pastor Rick Warren recently put it like this: “I fear God's disapproval more than man’s.”  (In this interview with Piers Morgan, he also stated, “...while I may disagree with you on your views on sexuality, that does not give me the right to demean you, to demoralize you, to defame you, to turn you into a demon.”)
Pastor Warren was talking about homosexuality, same-sex marriage, and tolerance. And of course those are hot topics today in Utah. But if we’re talking about sin, then it goes much farther than that. I don’t even want to get involved in this debate because it takes away from the larger issue of sin in general.  There are a lot of people screaming about the sin of homosexuality, but what about the sins of fornication, and adultery. There is a lot of that going on among good church-going people. Couples live together and head to church weekly, and not much is said about it. Lots of women come to church with their children and dad isn't with them, because he’s not a part of the ‘legal’ family, and often even Mom doesn't know who he is – or care.
And of course we all know people who cheat on their taxes, and think the speed limit and stop signs are for the other guy.  There are plenty of people in this country illegally who are demanding their rights (‘rights’ which in this country are granted to American citizens, and to those who are here legally). What part of ‘respect those in position of authority’ are we missing out on? 
Parents are told to not exasperate their children, and children are to honor their parents. We all know how that’s working out. And how much covetousness, lust, and theft are we willing to accept from our circle of friends? God says that idolatry is sin, but look at how we turn our cars, houses, jobs, families, and bank accounts into idols. Well maybe not idols, but many times it seems that we value them more than we value God. Strike that, we have turned them into idols: we turn to them to give us something that only God can give us. That’s an idol. No other Gods before you?  Yeah, I’m talking to you, Mr. God-won’t-care-if –I-miss-church -–He-knows-my-team-is playing-today.
Yes we want to love the sinner even as we hate the sin, but I don’t see how that we do anybody any favors when we try to minimize any sin. The loving response is to walk beside the sinner, and teach what Jesus taught. If I can convince you that your sin is not a sin, why would you ever confess it? Why would you ever repent? Why would you ever care about what the Bible says?  As you can read in 1 John 1:9-10 (the Message)  “On the other hand, if we admit our sins — make a clean breast of them — he won't let us down; he'll be true to himself. He'll forgive our sins and purge us of all wrongdoing. If we claim that we've never sinned, we out-and-out contradict God — make a liar out of him. A claim like that only shows off our ignorance of God.”
I wish I were perfect so that I could judge those who see things differently than I do. I’m not, and I don’t have that right. God established the guidelines. God has told us what he sees as sin. It’s against that standard that people will be judged.  People, don’t set the standards any more than governments do. That’s left to God. 
Any government entity can pass laws, enact statutes, or put something up for vote. But nowhere does God say that he’s just doing the best He can, and hopefully someday a human judge, elected or appointed by another human being, will make all the necessary corrections. Whether we want to acknowledge something as sin or not, at some point we’re going to stand before the supreme Judge and give an accounting for what we've done with what we had.

So when we want to talk about sin, it seems that the best place to start would be with our own, the things we’re doing that God says he doesn't like.  I don’t mean that we shouldn't be offended by the sins of other people, but when we shift our focus from ‘ours’ to ‘theirs’ it’s way too easy to get distracted and not be able to hear God's voice.  If I’m busy talking about your sin, I’m not even thinking about my own. It might make me a little more comfortable today, but someday I’m going to have to answer for that sin. 

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