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The Dirty S-Word of Easter

The Dirty S-Word of Easter

There is a dirty word in our culture – one that, if mentioned, will bring the “tolerance” police running, guns blazing.

Just about anything can be said, nowadays, except this. Spend a few minutes online and you can find vociferous cultural defenses for how “cheating is wrong” is just an opinion, euthanasia is not only merciful but beautiful, boys should have the opportunity to explore their sexuality with older men, and infanticide can be justified because the infant does not yet have his or her own personhood. Previously “dirty” words such as pride, premarital sex, adultery, greed, divorce, sloth, abortion, homosexuality, gluttony, assisted suicide, pornography, wrath, lust, and transgenderism have become not only acceptable, but, in many cases, celebrated cultural vernacular backed by tremendous social, financial, and political influence. There is very little that causes eyebrows to raise, anymore – even less that evokes righteous anger.

Except – whatever you do, just don’t say the S-word.

This one dirty word has the power to make people go into apoplectic fits. Merely mentioning it will bring on fiery condemnation, disgusting personal attacks, and social media debates that rival the Salem witch trials.

Or, even worse…the complete loss of one’s livelihood.

What is this filthy, game-changing, culture-provoking word?

Sin.

 

Moral Schizophrenia

It is the one word our culture will not tolerate. To be clear, sin itself is just fine – it is often not simply tolerated, but celebrated. But calling something sin? Well, it’s the worst, um, sin our culture knows. You can sin all you want. Just don’t label it when someone else does it.

But here’s the problem. Although we claim to not judge, and act as though sin is not a problem when we’re engaging in it, we almost invariably judge quite quickly and respond quite strongly as though it is a problem when it is perpetuated against us.

In other words,”Sin all you want. Just don’t sin against me”.

 

  • Sexuality is your personal business. Unless you, my husband, are cheating on me.
  • It’s not for me to decide whether or not you are demonstrate financial integrity. Until you are handling my investments.
  • How you spend your time is up to you. Unless you’re working for me and you’re on the clock.
  • It’s not for me to judge what you do with your pregnancy. Unless it’s my baby and I want the chance to be a father.
  • It’s your choice how you choose to respond to things. Unless you cut me off in road rage and cause me to wreck my car.
  • Truth is relative – what is true for you is true for you. Unless you’re the physician giving me my biopsy results.

Why do we live so schizophrenically? Why do we claim to tolerate all behavior while at the same time getting incensed when others perpetuate certain behaviors against us?

Because here actually is such a thing as sin. We just really, really don’t like it.

 

Reality Bites

We cannot actually live out what we claim with relation to sin because there is a true right and a wrong. There is an actual objective standard, and that when we deviate from that standard we end up with real world consequences. In other words, as much as we don’t want it to be so…

Reality bites.

Sure, we can teach elementary school children that “All men are created equal” is simply an opinion. But we will also put that child in jail, as a young adult, if he beats up a fellow African-American student because his opinion is that individual is inferior to him. Sure, we can say that you’re free to have sex on any terms you want. But that won’t change the devastation to the woman who faces an unplanned pregnancy at the pinnacle point in her career, with no support and no father for her child. Sure, we can say that it’s your right to indulge yourself with alcohol, drugs, and materialism – you should live it up while you can! But we won’t be there to fix it when alcoholism, drug addiction, and money mismanagement leave you devastated, depressed, and enslaved.

No matter how much we want to ignore it, choices have consequences. And they have consequences because there is a standard of right and wrong created outside of ourselves to which we all, like it or not, are accountable – the standard of the One who created everything. And according to His standard – a standard of absolute, glorious, holy perfection, we all fall short.

That’s called sin.

Romans 3:23 says it this way:

“For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God”.

He’s perfect – we’re not. And this dirty little S-word? Well, it’s at the very center of Easter.

Even in Christian circles the idea of sin is becoming increasingly unpopular. Progressive Christianity emphasizes the compassion of Christ; the unconditional love and acceptance Jesus displayed for all people, regardless of action or behavior. And this tolerant theology has it partly right. Certainly it is the overwhelming, unyielding love for mankind that led to God slumming it by coming down into this world as a human being and dying on the cross. God’s love is powerful, lavish, and all-consuming. And nothing anyone can do – no actions, no matter how bad –  can make God love us any less, or any more than he already does.

But this singular focus on Jesus’ love misses a crucial point:

Why, in His love, then, did Jesus have to die?

Think about that for a moment.

I mean, why couldn’t He have simply said some equivalent of, “Beam them up, Dad! I love these people just the way they are, so bring ‘em on up here with us so we can have a big ol’ party!”

Why all the bloody death-on-a-cross stuff?

Enter the dirty S-word.

Sin is the center of Christianity – the basis for why Christ came to earth. Without sin, there is no need for Christ, no need for a Savior. Consider this:

There is no need for someone to be saved unless he is in some sort of peril.

So that begs the question: What kind of peril were we in?

 

That Little Thing Called Death

“For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 6:23

That’s right – our falling short of God’s perfection, our sin, leads to death. It always leads to some sort of death. That’s why no matter how hard we try to claim there is no right or wrong, that sin doesn’t exist, that no one should be compelled to live in any certain way – we can’t actually follow our own advice when someone does something against us. Because in the real world, we experience the consequences – the death – of that sin. It may be physical death. It may be the death of a relationship. The death of trust. The death of hope. Most certainly, and most devastatingly, it means spiritual death.

Romans 8:13 13 for if you live according to the flesh, you are going to die. But if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.

Death happens, where sin exists. Why? Because sin is any deviation from or rejection of the nature and character of God, and the nature and character of God is life (John 14:6). If we reject life, the only other option left is death. God didn’t create this sin-and-death thing to punish us…

We chose sin and death by rejecting who He is – LIFE.

“There is no one righteous, not even one.
11 There is no one who understands;
there is no one who seeks God…. There is no one who does what is good,
not even one.Romans 3:11-12

Easter is all about sin. All about the fact that we chose death by rejecting Life, and that once we picked that path, there was no way out of it. Sure, Jesus could say we were good, but that wouldn’t make us good – any more than a judge simply saying a murderer was innocent would make him so. No matter what we were called, we would still be sinners, and still be under the penalty of death from that choice.

So Jesus came to fix it. To fix us.

“The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Here is the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” John 1:29

The only way for death (the consequence of sin) to be defeated would be for Life to conquer it. And the only way Life could conquer it would be to become sin, experience the full consequence of that sin (death), yet not stay dead.

Got that?

Or, as Romans 3:25-26 puts it:

25 God presented Him as a propitiation[sacrifice for sin] through faith in His blood, to demonstrate His righteousness, because in His restraint God passed over the sins previously committed. 26 God presented Him to demonstrate His righteousness at the present time, so that He would be righteous and declare righteous the one who has faith in Jesus. Romans 3:25-26

Jesus became sin, died on the cross and then came back to life in order to defeat the consequence of sin – death. As a result, all those who repent of their sin and accept his sacrifice no longer experience the consequences of sin anymore, and instead now get to enjoy fellowship with God – Life!

Romans 6:22 22 But now, since you have been liberated from sin and have become enslaved to God, you have your fruit, which results in sanctification—and the end is eternal life!

 

Come and Be Changed

But, be clear – the key to all of this is recognizing, admitting, and turning away from one’s sin.

1 John 1:9 “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

There are two diametrically opposed paths – the one toward Life (God), and the one toward death (anything else). There can be no eternal life without turning from sin. Jesus’ message was never, “I love you unconditionally. Come to me and stay exactly as you are.” No, His message was always, “I love you unconditionally. Come to me as you are, and be changed.”

“Then the scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman caught in adultery, making her stand in the center….Jesus stood up and said to them, “The one without sin among you should be the first to throw a stone at her.”…10 When Jesus stood up, He said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?”  “No one, Lord,” she answered. “Neither do I condemn you,” said Jesus. “Go, and from now on do not sin anymore.” John 8:3-11

The way to Life is by exchanging our sin nature for His nature of life. And that cannot happen without us choosing to give up our sin nature and accepting His nature of life.

That’s where our culture gets it wrong. We cannot obtain Christ’s nature without giving up our own. We cannot be justified by His sacrifice without admitting that we have anything to be justified for. We cannot accept Christ taking our punishment when we don’t believe we had any punishment deserved. We cannot be made right when we are unwilling to give up that in us which is wrong.

Psalm 51:2 “Wash away my guilt and cleanse me from my sin.”

James 4:8 “Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, sinners, and purify your hearts.”

Tolerance is not love. Acceptance of sin is not compassionate. Contrary to progressive Christian proclamations, there is nothing Christ-like about saying “Do whatever you want to do – live however feels right for you, God accepts you anyway.” That is not love – it is self-justifying equivocation that ushers people down the path toward death; a message that soothes the emotions but endangers the soul.

It is hard to look at our sin. It is hard to face the fact that what we are doing is wrong. It is even harder to turn away from sin to righteousness. But there no matter how “accepted” or “loved” we might make people feel by claiming that sin doesn’t matter, it will not change the reality –

Sin is death.

And without repentance from it, life with Christ is not possible.

 

Love speaks the truth, with grace and humility. Love walks the hard road because it is the right road. Love points to the reality that grace is free but it costs absolutely everything.

 

Romans 6:6-14  6 For we know that our old self was crucified with Him in order that sin’s dominion over the bodymay be abolished, so that we may no longer be enslaved to sin, since a person who has died is freed from sin’s claims. Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with Him, because we know that Christ, having been raised from the dead, will not die again. Death no longer rules over Him. 10 For in light of the fact that He died, He died to sin once for all; but in light of the fact that He lives, He lives to God. 11 So, you too consider yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus”.

Sin is not a little thing – sin is the thing. We cannot possibly know the joy of salvation until we recognize the peril we are in – and decide that we want help out of it.

We are to focus on ourselves. We are to look inward, and to hold the mirror to our own behavior, our own thoughts, our own intentions. We are to take the plank out of our eye before we notice the speck in our brother’s. But we are also to proclaim, with humility, gentleness, and grace, the truth about sin and repentance. We are to open the door to salvation and liberation by showing the world that the first step to life begins with acknowledging our…

Sin.

It all begins there.

This Easter, we’re going to have to say it, loud and clear.

We’re going to have say the filthy S-Word.

Because the world needs to see that, in this case, it’s totally worth getting our mouths washed out – along with the rest of us, too.

Psalm 51:7 “Purify me with hyssop, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.”

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