“You know, I used to believe in the essential goodness of man,” a friend recently told me during a fundraising banquet. “Not so much, anymore.”
He didn’t go into details, but he was still reeling from a few situations involving mean, dysfunctional people. I simply replied, “Yeah, sin is a real thing.”
The Bible mentions sin some 450 times. The Old Testament uses the word as a willful breach of God’s holy law. In the New Testament, sin has a more subtle meaning, defined as “missing the mark.” When we sin, we are missing the bulls-eye of God’s perfect will for us.
None of us really want to hear that we are sinners – and that includes Christians. We prefer to think that we are doing okay, certainly better than the adulterer down the street or the bank officer who was just caught embezzling funds. Yet a theology of sin is necessary. I’m not a fan of Bible-beating preachers who shame their congregations every Sunday, but I think the church needs to reclaim this essential doctrine.
You see, when we minimize sin, we minimize the Cross of Jesus Christ. Why would Jesus need to die for sin if we are all good, decent people? In many mainline circles today, Jesus is a huggy, all-inclusive fellow who wouldn’t dare confront anyone in their sins. But as C.S. Lewis noted, “Christ takes it for granted that men are bad. Until we really feel this assumption of His to be true, though we are part of the world He came to save, we are not part of the audience to whom His words are addressed.”
Lewis insinuates that there is a correlation between our understanding of sin and the magnitude of God’s mercy. If we don’t believe in the gravity and consequences of sin, then we are unlikely to appreciate the depth of love that Christ displayed on the Cross. Without the reality of sin, the Gospel makes no sense. The Good News is precisely that because it is God’s solution to the Bad News: that all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23).
The doctrine of sin is all the more reason for the church to loudly proclaim that this terrible spiritual disease does not have the final word. Christ has come! His Cross has canceled the penalties of sin, and His glorious resurrection gives us the power to overcome.