But They Know Actual People

It seems inevitable that a biblical ministry that brings the message of the Bible to people in this world will frequently have to engage with sin.  If you have figured out how to preach only positive messages, then you probably should preach from more than the first couple and last couple of chapters!  So as we preach we address sin.  Here’s my one point for this post, although much more could be said on numerous levels, of course: sometimes we can make reference to certain sins in the abstract, but f0r some listeners these things are not abstract.  We may speak about the sin, but they know actual people who engage in that sin.

For example, it is easy to zoom in on the sin of a certain addiction or behaviour.  From your perspective what you say is fine.  You are looking out at a broken world and speaking about it, hopefully using biblical support for what you say.  But some of the people listening aren’t working in the abstract.  They are wrestling with the issue themselves.  Or they have a friend or relative who is caught up in it.  They know the back story.  They don’t want to excuse the sin, but they feel for the person entangled in it.

What to do?  One approach would be to tread softly around all issues, never get specific, always speak happy thoughts in abstract and vague ways.  Doesn’t sound like the best approach when you’re reading the Bible and seeing God’s spokesmen in action, does it?  Perhaps the better approach is to address whatever issue and instead of saying less, say slightly more.  Sometimes just including an acknowledgment of listeners’ feelings and the complexity of sin makes all the difference.  For example, avoiding the obvious ones so we don’t get distracted from the point of the post, perhaps you are addressing the sin of eating peanuts (and have biblical support for your position!)  You might have said some things already about the prevalence of this addiction, but then maybe you include something like this:

“Perhaps you know someone who struggles with this.  You know what the Bible says, but you also know them and you care about them.  You know what they’ve gone through in recent years, or how they were hurt by that failed relationship, or the scar left by their absent father.  This is not some sort of abstract issue for you because as soon as it is mentioned you see their face.  I understand that.  We live in a broken and hurting world filled with real people with real stories.  Sin is real and it hurts.”

Then you continue with your point.  If the transition to this content and from this content is smooth, it won’t jar, but it will keep listeners with you as you touch on a subject that hits a nerve. Sin is always viewed differently when it touches close to home.  When you preach to a decent sized and diverse congregation, sin issues are always touching close to home for someone.  Be sensitive to them.  Win an audience for the Word.

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