Do We See Sin Realistically?

Last month, Jason Collins, NBA ball player announced that he is gay. The media caught it, and there were responses that hit near the extremes of both sides of the spectrum. Some hailed him as a hero for being the first active player to come out. Others, often Christians, pointed to it as further evidence of the degradation of our morals and the coming collapse of our nation if we don’t shape up.

Both responses, frankly, seem pretty problematic. The first because the preferences and inclinations of a free agent basketballer is hardly newsworthy, particularly in light of the many other issues that face the world. It’s a testimony to our narcissism, entitlement, and narrow vision of the world that people should pay any attention to this, let alone become excited over it. Does anyone care about what’s happening in Afghanistan anymore? Or the slavery in Dubai? Or in Sturgis, South Dakota, for that matter? More positively, how many of us are even aware of the Clarity technique recently developed for brain tissue analysis?

On the other hand, the second is problematic because it shows how Christians have bracketed sin into good and bad categories. Homosexuality? Bad sin! Pre-marital sex or sex outside marriage? Bad sin. Rape? Murder? Theft? Bad sin. And yet…

Not long ago, I overheard a conversation that nearly made my wife choke. Somehow the conversation meandered its way toward what led to the recession and the fact that the recovery isn’t going as well as everyone would like. Much of what brought us to this place, my wife stated, was simply greed. The other person offered back, “Well, greed can be a good thing. It’s what drives people to get our economy going again.” Thankfully my wife recovers from shock faster than I do because I think I would have been left dumbfounded for several minutes, not knowing what to say. Greed can be good? Isn’t greed by definition not good? Somehow, for at least this one person, and perhaps for many more, greed had become a “good” sin. Or at least an okay one.

We have all sorts of sins that we do this with. For some people, greed has become an okay sin in certain circumstances. Pride is often an okay sin. Sloth is certainly one that I can fall into and sort of implicitly think of as okay. Or at least I’ll behave that way. Ignoring the hurting and needy can be okay. Giving a worker less than what they are worth can be okay.

We have all these sins, particularly attitudes of the heart, that we sort of let go. Sometimes it’s just easier. Sometimes it’s too convicting. Sometimes it would force us to deal with our problems or give something up that we don’t feel we can do without. We just don’t worry about these “little” sins, but then when something on the bad list shows up, then we push against it firmly, sometimes even aggressively or violently.

That bad list… It’s interesting to me that so much of what shows up on the bad list is tied to sexuality. What emotions are tied up in our sexuality that spurs us to respond so strongly? Active sins tend to show up on the bad list while passive sins tend to be seen as okay. Behaviors seem more likely to be bad than most dispositions (unless a teenager has “a bad attitude”, of course).

Regardless of how we split up these two lists, it does make me wonder… What would happen if we were to take all of our sin seriously? And what would happen if we took our own sin seriously? Not just things on the bad list, but on the okay list as well? What would happen if an entire church determined that they would attend to their personal sins of disposition? That they would attend to their prideful and self-hating and greedy and unloving inclinations rather than just sort of writing them off?

Of course, this could be done in a very wrong way. It could turn simply into an unhelpful reaction of incessant “That’s bad; stop it!” Paul said way back when that that wasn’t helpful (Col. 2:20-23). So something more careful is necessary, but that doesn’t negate the fact that we still bear sin, and that’s damaging to us and separates us from the One who created and loves us.

Do we take our sin seriously? All of it? Or merely part of it? How much do you separate sin into bad and okay categories? Are there sins that God might be calling you to attend to more carefully? Not to attack or revile you, but perhaps to draw you into a more fruitful and loving way of being?

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