Quite a few years ago the American psychiatrist Karl Menninger wrote a fascinating book aptly named, Whatever Became of Sin. He noticed that in order to avoid the gravity of sin, society seemed to drop the word “sin” from its vocabulary. His conclusions are quite interesting. He wrote regarding sin, “It was a word once in everyone’s mind, but is now rarely if ever heard. Does that mean that no sin is involved in all our troubles? Has no one committed sin? Where, indeed, did sin go? What became of it?” (p.13) He goes on to answer his own questions. He believes that, “Many former sins have become crimes,” and as a result these sins have become the responsibility of the state, leaving the church with very little to say regarding them. Others are now classified as sicknesses, and as a result psychiatrist, and their medications deal with these sins. Something called, “collective irresponsibility,” has made it possible to transfer sin from our own responsibility to society as a whole. Menninger goes on to write, “sin is an implicitly aggressive quality- a ruthlessness, a hurting, a breaking away from God and from the rest of humanity, a partial alienation, or act of rebellion…Sin has a willful, defiant or disloyal quality: someone is defied or offended or hurt.” (P, 19)
John Stott points out in The Cross of Christ that, “the emphasis of Scripture, however, is on the godless self-centeredness of sin. Every sin is a breach of what Jesus called the first and great commandment, not just by failing to love God with all our being, but also by actively refusing to acknowledge and obey Him as our Creator and Lord. We have rejected the position of dependence which our createdness inevitably involves, and made a bid for independence.” (p.90) One last quote from Stott, “Sin is not a regrettable lapse from conventional standards; its essence is hostility to God (Romans 8:7), issuing in active rebellion against him.” (P.90)
Right now you are probably saying, “Hey, this blog is suppose to be an encouragement, and a discussion of sin doesn’t help.” Dr. Menninger is right, sin is not an easy topic to introduce, but it is crucial to our understanding of grace. Without knowing what sin is we would never wish to turn from it. If we weren’t faced with the guilt of sin we would never flee into the arms of Christ. For many people the idea that they have a sinful nature or are considered sinful by God is silly. Yet, our own conscience convicts us of the fact that we do not hit the mark when it comes to our thoughts and behaviors. And no matter how society tries to make excuses for sin, the fact remains we sin and our sin is against God.
When we make excuses for sin and call it an illness or a crime, we let ourselves off the hook. We feel no need to repent because our society has given us a pass on personal responsibility. Only when we take sin seriously do we understand our need of Christ and turn to him for our salvation. It’s important to remember that sin doesn’t define us because it is defeated through the power of the cross. When I cry out, “God save me,” I am forgiven and my sins forgotten, and that is great news.