Oversimplifying sin. Or why sin is not what you think.

A couple of days I wrote a blog that kind of went crazy. In it I questioned the manner that John Piper spoke about porn in a sermon.

Needless to say I got a lot of flack from some people. Yet I also received a lot of comments from people who had been hurt by similar styles of talking about sin in Church. I didn’t write it for John Piper fans. I wrote it for those very people whose voice has been lost because the church has piled on more and more shame.

Reading and responding to the comments it became quickly apparent that this had become something bigger than just about a view of porn addiction. It became about healing and about showing people that there was a better way to freedom, than to make them feel worse about their shame. Image

It got me and a lot of you too, thinking about sin. Many of the comments completely denied that addiction was a legitimate thing and stated that “sin is sin.” Others claimed that by talking about addiction I was letting people off the hook from the responsibility of their own actions. Let me be clear (like I was in the post even though some people must have missed it), looking at porn in my opinion is sin.

Yet, it can also be an addiction. Something that can leave us powerless over it. We like things to be very black and white but we need to realize that sometimes it’s a little grey.

And sin is as grey as they come.

Some people say that sin is all the bad things that we do that hurt, or destroy people’s live. e.g. lying or murder.

I agree, but it’s much more than that.

Others would then say it’s not just the things we do but also our thoughts and our attitudes e.g. lust or racism.

Again, I agree but even that isn’t going far enough.

So if that’s not far enough, what is?

This lent I am going through a devotion by N.T.Wright.

(If you have never heard of N.T. Wright stop reading this post and buy something, anything by him. I recommend starting with Simply Jesus or any of his New Testament for Everyone series or why not start his lent series for yourself.)

In yesterday’s devotion he described sin as “missing the mark of genuine humanness”.

Often when we talk about Jesus death and resurrection we do it a huge disservice by only using it as a way to persuade people to repent of their sins so they can go to Heaven. It becomes a ticket out of here or a genie bottle we can rub every time we make a mess of things and want to feel magically better. We sing about Jesus being “my” best friend or refer to Him as “my” savior, and while he is both those things He is so much more. The Easter story is not a story about our redemption from sin, it is a story about the world’s redemption from sin. Which of course, we as the people who make up the world, are a huge part of. Therefore, it is about our redemption from sin. And it’s not. Yet it is.

Still with me?

When we reduce sin to simply an individual act or even a thought we have missed something bolder and revolutionary going on. We have made sin about “I” or “Me”. However, when someone looks at porn or when I lie to a friend or when you steal; these are not isolated events. Sometimes they may feel like they are but at the core of every “sin” is an action against someone else.

This is important because being saved from our sins is not just about ‘you’ being saved.

It is about all the people you are in community with being saved also.

When I don’t sin, you benefit.
When you don’t sin, I benefit.

Because we’re not isolated. We live in communities and families and schools and workplaces and we’re all connected. You may look at porn on your own but your wife or your children or the friends you can’t be there for are the ones that miss out.

The world is not the way it should be, that much is clear to anyone who has access to 24 hour news or who just steps outside their house each day.

But in the Lord’s prayer, Jesus prays for Heaven to come down on Earth. This is not some nice sound byte about rescuing us from this mess. In it He is asking us to live right in this mess and join Him and each other in the work of restoring God’s creation to the way things are meant to be. To get back on target. It’s already begun, we just need to join in.

Not just for a select few to get out of here, but for everyone.

Do you see how revolutionary Jesus message was now? Why He had so much anger and contempt for the religious people who had already decided who was in and who was out? (thankfully that has all changed now…) How this message of Jesus goes beyond religions, or denominations or what you believe or where you go after work or whether you support Arsenal?

Genuine humanness is about love, about being at peace with who you are. When we fail to reach that we are missing the mark. When we fail to love ourselves, we can’t be at peace with ourselves and we sure as hell can’t love or be at peace with each other. This is where all the things we do that hurt others or that allows huge companies to exploit the weak and poor come from.

So, it is not about what Jesus came to save us from, but what He came to save us for.

Yeah there is a human responsibility going on here to the extent that what we do here on this Earth matters to each other, starting now. It matters because it determines whether we offer genuine humanness to each other or not. We were all born to be creative, it just depends on where we direct those energies.

Once we understand this at the deepest levels we can stop shaming each other into acting a certain way and start getting to the real work of love, justice and peace for everyone.

Then, we might just see Heaven sooner than we think.

4 thoughts on “Oversimplifying sin. Or why sin is not what you think.

  1. YOU SAID: Do you see how revolutionary Jesus message was now? Why He had so much anger and contempt for the religious people who had already decided who was in and who was out? (thankfully that has all changed now…)”

    How deep was your tongue planted in your cheek when you added your parenthetical comment? [grin]

  2. It’s me again 🙂

    As much as I love N.T Wright, and I really do ( I have his Matthew for dummies… err, for everyone). I would contend on the definition you seem to attribute to him.

    yes, sin is going the opposite direction to what human are meant to, yes sin affects the world and we live in a fallen world.
    Yes, the creation also groans for the revealing of the sons of God (a verse N.T Wright loves to quote) But may I recall you that the first sin ever committed by human race was not against, so to say, Mother Earth? It was against God… Our first parent (or the representation of them, or whatever you make of the Genesis story) disobeyed God, they wanted to be “like” God (funny for people that are already the image bearer’s of God), they were consumed with pride and coveted God’s position… the whole “horizontal” effect of sin is a by-product of the “vertical” effect. Sin is primarily an offense to a Loving, yes i meant Loving, Just and Holy God


    God bless

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