|Pieter Bruegel's Seven Deadly Sins: Gluttony|
But very truly I tell you, it is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Advocate will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you. When he comes, he will prove the world to be in the wrong about sin and righteousness and judgment: about sin, because people do not believe in me; 10 about righteousness, because I am going to the Father, where you can see me no longer; and about judgment, because the prince of this world now stands condemned. (John 16:7-11)First, the Spirit proves the world wrong about sin. There are several things the world, and sometimes even disciples of Jesus, get wrong about sin.
Sin is about breaking a list of rules
Actually, sin is about unbelief. As Jesus says, the reason Holy Spirit will convict the world about sin is not because of a list of charges against them, but because of one charge: they don't believe in Jesus.
Unbelief is the root of all sin. The unpardonable sin, at its root, is about choosing to not believe in Jesus.
It makes sense, then, that the best way to approach sinners about their sin is not by haranguing them about their sins, but by pointing them to Jesus.
What they need is to believe in Jesus.
Sin is NOT about a list of rules
In our rush to correct the legalism many Christians grew up with, we sometimes swing too far the other way in our insistence on Christianity not being about morals and obedience.
No, sin is not all about the rules and commandments, but there are indeed rules. You really have to read the Word with blinders to miss the rules. Jewish scholars say there are 613 commandments in the Old Testament. That's not even counting all the principles, statutes, precepts - the rules - in the New Testament.
Christianity is about faith in Jesus (see point #1) and about grace. But there's no reason for Jesus' sacrifice, no reason for mercy and grace, if we all haven't fallen short of the glory of God.
We just need to remember that the list of rules is not an arbitrary list. The laws and commandments are a codified reflection of the character of God. And, again, this means the best way to approach sinners about their sin is to point them to the character of God, as lived out by Jesus.
What they need is to believe in Jesus.
Sin is about societal dysfunction
The world's definition of "sin", or of right and wrong, takes the character of God and belief in Jesus out of the equation. To non-believers, sin is all about doing harm to your neighbor.
Sins like murder, violence, and theft have been considered wrong in nearly every society throughout history, because those actions violate the social contract necessary for civilization. But if sin is defined by its impact on others, the list of what is truly wrong becomes quite short.
Sexual sins like adultery, pre-marital sex, homosexuality, prostitution - even polygamy and bestiality - can be rationalized and normalized as long as they're done in a way that doesn't oppress or harm someone. Whatever is done by consenting adults is OK, by that standard.
The traditional seven deadly sins - pride, envy, gluttony, lust, anger, greed, and sloth - are all allowable within the limit of not harming other people. In fact, each of those is in some way celebrated by modern society.
If we're all just a product of evolution, the survival of the fittest, then anything that helps us survive and thrive, without inordinate cost to the survival of society, is OK.
But if we're all created in the image of God, designed to function best the more we express God's character in our lives, then there's a greater good that defines what is bad.
What we need is to believe in Jesus.
Your sin is worse than my sin
Phil Robertson, a Christian, and the patriarch of the Duck Dynasty clan, was asked by GQ magazine, "What in your mind, is sinful?" His answer: "Start with homosexual behavior and just morph out from there. Bestiality, sleeping around with this woman and that woman and that woman and those men."
He's not wrong, but his starting point betrays a skewed attitude about sin, one shared by many people.
If you begin your definition of sin by naming the nastiest, worst things you can imagine, you're basically just following a more personalized version of the "societal dysfunction" definition. Instead of sin being what's bad for society, sin is what's bad in your own eyes. Sin is truly in the eye of the beholder.
Usually this means sin begins with the things you personally find most repugnant, the sins "those other people" do. Certainly not the sins you know most easily drag yourself down.
It's a quick trip from there to the attitude of the Pharisee toward the tax collector.
God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. (Luke 18:11)I'm frequently disturbed in the prison ministry when women who are incarcerated for murder, drug dealing, and other crimes look down on their noses at fellow inmates who are involved in sexual sins. Somehow they, along with Phil Robertson and a host of other believers, have concluded some sins are worse than others.
They're not. Sin is sin. Some believers like to argue some sins are worse because of the consequences or because of certain adjectives used to describe them in scriptures.
In the end, all sins are equal because of one inarguable point.
Jesus' sacrifice covers every sin and every sinner. The only ranking that matters is forgiven or unforgiven.
What we all need is to believe in Jesus.