One of the buzz words that explains modern society is ‘tolerance.’ It fits nicely with ‘inclusive’ and ‘multicultural’ and other similar sentiments. If you want to be tolerated, you need to be tolerant. Ironically, tolerant people will be intolerant towards you if you are not suitably tolerant. They will judge you for being judgmental.
And then there is ‘sin.’ It’s a popular word among old Christians, but it clearly is not tolerant, inclusive or multicultural. A sin is something that is wrong, and needs to be condemned, and possibly forgiven. That idea is judgmental and it does not fit with modern thinking.
So, is sin still a thing?
I have a job that is new for me, and last week I traveled and stayed in a small-town motel. My room was clean, but the neighbors were a bit scary. They were the kind of people who stay in motels in small towns. One group was a team of furniture movers. They seem to live like gypsies, and they like to barbecue and argue about things in the parking lot. The noise made it hard to get to sleep at night, but I talked to them, and they were friendly.
Sleep came late for me, so I appreciated those quiet mornings. On one morning, very early, I woke up to the sound of children playing. I thought what you would think; ‘Where are the parents of those noisy brats?’ And then I heard loud swearing, and I realized the noise was a woman screaming. After the swearing died down, I heard words like “Why are you leaving me?” and “What did I do wrong?” That was followed by loud sobbing.
What I heard was the sounds of a breakup in a cheap small-town motel. It woke me up, too early, and I listened for any sounds of a beating. I was ready to call the police, and the furniture-moving crowd agreed with me. We were all bothered by those horrible sounds, but we didn’t hear the sounds of physical abuse.
I’m a Christian, and I can honestly say, some sin happened in that motel. The tough furniture movers might use a different word, but they disapproved as much as I did. We heard the sounds of something that was wrong, and any atheist would agree with us. Sin, by any name, happened there, and we heard at least one person suffering. The screaming and sobbing was painful to hear. I have told the story to several people, and everyone laughed. One price that couple has to pay, is looking like fools, and being laughed at, by people who are more successful. They have to wear that badge of shame for a lifetime, or lie about their past.
That was the morning after, the sad ending. It’s easy to imagine damage to at least one of those people, that could endure for a lifetime. There are always triggers behind self-abuse, and abuse of others, and addiction, and suicide.
We can also imagine a night before, when both people were probably happy. In popular movies, we don’t usually see that sad ending. We usually get the happy, optimistic beginning, usually with special lighting and saxophone music. Popular culture likes the happy side of sin and promotes it as good. Psychologists deal with the consequences of the dark side.
In my childhood, I was taught that some things were bad, and I was bad if I did them. That was a common theme in my church and my family. I believe now, that we were wrong. We didn’t bother to understand sin, we just tried to stay away from it, or to not get caught.
The Bible tells us “By faith Moses, when he had grown up, refused to be known as the son of Pharaoh’s daughter. He chose to be mistreated along with the people of God rather than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin.” (Hebrews 11: 24 and 25)
Sin, doing the wrong thing, is fun; it gives pleasure, and I don’t remember that lesson when I was a boy. If we believe what most people believe today, that happiness and pleasure and good feelings are good, then sin is good. It only seems wrong, and bad, when we get to the dark side. And that is the truth about sin, the bright side always comes with a dark side, the suffering begins with happiness. I heard the sounds of human suffering, in that motel, and it’s easy to judge that couple now. What did they think was going to happen?
So yes, sin is a thing today. It makes us happy, for a time, and it lies to us about the end, when we are going to pay the price, and probably pass suffering on to others. There is no Christian message, unless we warn people to confront things that are wrong. One old buzz word is ‘forgive.’ It means nothing without ‘sin.
Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently. But watch yourselves, or you also may be tempted. Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way, you will fulfill the law of Christ … Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. Whoever sows to please their flesh, from the flesh will reap destruction; whoever sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life. Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest, if we do not give up. (Galatians 6: 1 to 9)