Est. May 2008

06 July, 2013

Taking Sin Seriously

In the not-too-distant past, the American ‘branch’ of the Christian church has felt the kick of the secular state.  Individuals are having their faith tested by rules against public displays of that faith, the Affordable Care Act has jabbed the Church with its mandatory-contraceptive/sterilization/abortion mandate, the Supreme Court’s recent rulings regarding homosexual marriage, and many other incidents are beginning to force Christians here in American out of their complacency-cocoons and onto an unfamiliar battle-field.

Because this battlefield is unfamiliar, most Christians – young and old – are unprepared to fight back; the breastplate of righteousness is tarnished and rusty, the belt of truth is nowhere to be found, the sword of the Spirit (the Word) is rusty from neglect.  Our arguments against the treatment we’re receiving are turned back on us, often even before they’re voiced: we’re called ‘hypocrites’ because for so long now the church ‘has turned a blind eye’ on those who have been practicing their secret sins – adultery, divorce-and-remarriage, abortion, and so on.

And of course the church has rules against these things, but unenforced rules aren’t even eligible for the term ‘suggestions’.

Jesus laid out church discipline in Matthew 18:
“If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother.  But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses.   If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. (verses 15-17, ESV)
Too many Christians and far too many of our churches hit Step 1 up there and don’t do it; skip that step and the rest is, well, doesn’t matter what the rest is, because nobody gets to it.  A few churches use Step 1, and perhaps even go to Step 2; Step 3, on the other hand, almost never gets used anymore.  Example: Nancy Pelosi and Joe Biden are two self-professed ‘good Catholics’; both support abortion; the Catholic Church calls abortion a sin; it’s taken the Catholic Church how long to all Nancy and Joe out on this?  It was just a month or so ago that I read an article from a Catholic priest telling Nancy to either denounce abortion or renounce her faith; as far as I know, both of these inveterate, unrepentant sinners still receive communion from their priests.

Is the label ‘hypocrite’ well-placed?  I think so.  And it’s also well-placed in a lot of other situations as well; another example is when, while dealing with homosexual marriage, Christians who said it would destroy marriage were faced with the counterargument that divorce was doing a pretty good job of destroying marriage all on its own.  Christians aren’t supposed to divorce, except in cases of marital infidelity (see Matthew 19:9), but no-fault divorce – and the church’s ineffective opposition of it (to be honest, I don’t even know if the church put up much of a fight against no-fault) – opened the floodgates for divorce for any reason, or no reason at all.

What’s driving all this?  Question: when was the last time you went to Sunday service and heard the preacher speak on the topic of sin?  Years and years ago preachers both secure in specific pulpits and itinerant, wandering ones preached what became known as ‘hellfire and brimstone’ anti-sin sermons that scared the hell (no pun intended) out of their hearers.  Sin was nothing to be trifled with, unrepented sin bought you a one-way ticket to hell, and preachers of the time felt no fear of making that known.  Today?  You’re lucky if you have a preacher who might, once in a blue moon, give a soft-pedaled sermonette on sin – the rest of the time these preachers are acting more like self-help gurus preaching a Care-Bear Jesus who never gets angry with us.

That’s not helpful, folks.  That’s probably one of the major reasons we’re in the position we’re in now, with the state trying to force us all to pay for other people’s sexual choices (unwanted pregnancies from adulterous activities and homosexual unions, to pick the two that are in the news most often).  You don’t teach about sin, you don’t anathemize sin, you turn a blind eye to sin, you don’t discipline your parishioners for their sinful behaviors, of course you’re going to have increasing levels of sinful behavior because those people don’t realize how much God despises sin, and have no idea how badly He will punish them for their sin.

Sadly, I think it’s a pipe-dream to imagine churches returning to a time when they preached about the evil of sin: far too many churches are far too worried about offending people, because talking about sin offends, and offended people stop coming to church and putting money in the offering plate; offended people also tend to tell others about their offendedness, which keeps others from crossing the church’s doorstep due to fear that they will be offended as well.  Far too many churches are far too concerned about how the world sees them, and whether the world will accept them, so they will follow the world’s lead when it comes to teaching and preaching the word – whatever that word may be.

Whatever it is, it’s not God word, and unless God’s Word gets preached, people can’t equip themselves to fight the battle which is already at our doorstep.  And if we can’t fight that battle, we will be crushed.

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