3. Fail to recognize the gravity of sin.
To much Christian theology and evangelistic preaching assumes that everyone knows what sin is. Sin is sins, right? Stealing, lying, murder, adultery, etc. So obvious that there is no need to probe the issue, just be sure to make lots of noise about it. But what if our view of sin is altogether too shallow?
A. It is easy to make a lot of noise about half of sin. Everyone is inclined to hand pick which sins are their personal target and then make noise about such things. But the list of sins is typically truncated. It tends to be the ones that I don’t struggle with. But what about the deep sin coming to the surface in other ways? More on the root versus the fruit in a moment, but at the fruit level, what about the acceptable sins? Why don’t we hear so much on the sins that tend to be an issue within the church? Too easily we aim our guns at people who haven’t even engaged us in our dialogue.
B. It is easy to rage against society, but what does that achieve? I know that theologically the world is clearly in opposition to God and His values. But at the same time, simple raging against people not present doesn’t achieve much. For one thing, if a non-church person happens to visit, they might feel like the church is a place for complaining and arguing with straw-man enemy figures. For instance, I wonder if people would be so bold in statements about outspoken opponents of religion if they were present? So someone might hear and that might actually paint an unhelpful picture of the church. Furthermore, church folk might hear and grow in their fleshly inclination to compare with others, thereby losing sight of the sin that is their own greatest problem. Fanning the flames of fleshly pride is not helpful.
C. In our noisy preaching about half of sin, we may be understating the issue altogether. Even if we add older brother behaviours to younger brother behaviours and make our sin lists more complete, we are still addressing the issue at the level of fruit rather than root and sap. When we treat sin as what comes out, we make it sound behavioural by definition. But the Bible treats sin as a heart-level issue. The heart of the human problem is the human heart. Out of the heart spews all types of sin: the drunken orgy rebellion type, and the prideful religious churchy type . . . both from a heart dead toward God. The behaviours weren’t the ultimate issue with those two sons, it was their hearts – despising relationship with father and loving self. The manifestation was different, but the hearts were equally lost.
Sin is to important to treat as a given. We have to diagnose the depths of the human problem if our gospel preaching is to offer an appropriately radical cure.