I wonder, when was the last time you saw the word 'sin' in the newspaper. I think that it is exceedingly rare to see that word in print. Have you noticed that? Think of the most recent scandals in the political world. Has anyone said that the former governor of California sinned? The recent texting/twitter scandal in Congress has moved many to call for the offending politician's resignation. But has anyone said that he sinned against his wife or the American people?
This is not a rant about the media not knowing about the difference between right and wrong or good and evil. The actions of these particular men have been fairly well condemned by all, or at least they have been ridiculed. I'm not trying to make the point that their behavior has been deemed acceptable by the lack of the use of the word "sin". I want, instead, to point out something else.
The reason, I suppose, that we are loathe to use the word 'sin' is because sin is a religious word. Perhaps it is too closely tied in with the idea of an offended deity, and as such, it is unpalatable to the mainstream. Besides, if we can simply use "wrong" or "irresponsible" or "moral failure" to communicate the same idea with the heavy religious baggage, isn't that sufficient?
I confess that the word sin is a loaded word. It does conjure up the idea of an offended deity or an objective moral standard. This type of standard is, seemingly, more and more passe in our society. But with the death of the concept of sin, it seems to me that the ideas of repentance and forgiveness are also falling by the wayside.
Part of this, I admit, comes from the fact that most folks seem hardly repentant. Further, public apologies seem contrived in order to save face or maintain political position. I get that. But still, I have this nagging feeling that as we lose our ability to call things 'sin', we may be, by accident, losing our ability to forgive sin as well.
If we have a society that does not believe in sin, that does not believe in an objective moral standard, then we may also come to live in a society that cannot find a place for absolution. Think for a moment about that governor and that congressman. What can they do to find absolution? Public apology? That certainly will be received with much seriousness. And what of their wives? If they decide to forgive their spouse, how can they do such a thing and not look like a weakling?
If there is no God, then there is no sin. There is simply stupid behavior that gets you fired and kills your marriage. But if there is a God, and there is sin, then there is also the chance for absolution for the sinner and the sinned against. If God is real, then He knows about everyone's sin. He knows what you've done in your house, in your bedroom, and in your mind. He knows where you've gone on your computer, and He knows what has motivated your actions. And God has offered to every sinner absolution through Christ. Someone who believes this knows what it means to be forgiven of sin and what it means to be genuinely changed by forgiveness. It can make them strong enough even to forgive. Strong like Christ Jesus, who stooped to wear a thorny crown in order to win our absolution.
I fear that a society that loses its grip on what sin is will ultimately lose its grip on compassion and forgiveness. Where there is no sin, there is no forgiveness. I fear that such a society will spiral into a sort of cynicism that will cause it to be unable to trust any public figure. Is this what we are coming to? Are we already there?
I'm not saying that the former governor or the current congressman is truly repentant. I am saying that they have both sinned. They sinned against their wives, their families, and Almighty God. Therapy cannot fix this, and neither can resignation. But I also want them to know that there is a place for the sinner to find forgiveness, and I want their spouses to know that real forgiveness is borne out of might, not weakness. It takes courage to forgive, and it takes faith. This courage and faith can only come from one who has himself or herself already experienced the power of the forgiveness of sin.
The former governor and the congressman and their families have already experienced the power of sin, whether they would call it that or not. I pray, and I truly hope, that they may also find out about the power of grace and forgiveness through Christ.
I am a pastor serving in my hometown of Albertville, Alabama. The greatest evidence of God's grace in my life are my wife, son, and daughter. One look at me and then my wife will tell you that her "yes" was a modern day miracle. Otherwise, I am almost completely mundane.