Let’s face it, for Christians talking about sin isn’t going to win us any points or goodwill with people. People don’t like to hear that God has a standard of belief and behavior and that He doesn’t always approve of their thoughts or actions. And that alone makes certain things wrong and – there’s only one word for it – sin.
For years we’ve had our lists of do’s and don’ts that we used to evaluate people’s lives. Sometimes – often – we emphasized the trivial over the substantial and personal preferences over Biblical teaching. But at least we understood that sin was important enough to talk about. Our pastors thundered against sin from the pulpits and Christians tried to avoid any type of questionable behavior. Unfortunately we also avoided anyone who engaged in behavior that we deemed “sinful” as if their sin was contagious and if we spent too much time with them we would be contaminated.
But the pendulum has swung the other way and today it’s rare for Christians to talk about the sinfulness of sin. In place of sin we’ve substituted other things. We talk about how God wants to bless us, about how wonderful the Christian life is, and about how great your future can be. We even talk about grace instead of sin – that’s a lot easier to talk about and people like hearing sermons on grace a lot more than they like hearing about sin. Today sin is rarely mentioned and when it is, many Christians, not to mention pastors, are almost apologetic. It happened recently to Joel Osteen, the pastor of America’s largest church when he appeared on CNN’s Piers Morgan Tonight. Known more for his prosperity theology and cute sound bites (God wants you to be a winner, not a whiner. – Do all you can to make your dreams come true. – It’s God’s will for you to live in prosperity instead of poverty.) he was asked if homosexuality was a sin. In the past Osteen has tried to avoid the difficult issues (read talking about sin here), saying that it was not my thrust. However, when pressed by Piers Morgan he had to admit that according to the Bible, homosexuality is a sin. The fact that Osteen rarely talks about sin is evident by the backlash that his comments have created. After more than a decade as a pastor, preaching to over seven million people each week via television and authoring several best sellers, it’s as if this is the first time that anyone has heard him say anything about sin. His comments shocked more than a few people.
But the question is can you talk about grace without ever talking about sin? The answer is no. There is no grace without sin. Not only can’t you have grace without sin but you can’t have mercy, forgiveness or redemption without sin. Sin is why Christ came (Mark 10:45). Sin is why He died (Romans 5:8). Sin is at the very heart of the gospel message (2 Corinthians 5:18-21). Until people are confronted with their sin and deal with it, they will never have that good life that Joel Osteen likes to talk about.
I’m all for talking about God’s grace – in fact I love the emphasis on grace that is evident in preaching today. It was long overdue. But you can’t fully appreciate grace until you understand the awfulness of sin. Not talking about sin robs people of the greatness of God’s grace and leaves them with a feel-good but empty theology.
Go ahead and talk about grace but don’t leave out the reason that grace is so wonderful.
Stay in the Word