We make a HUGE mistake when we minimize the idea of sin. Though it makes us feel better, it makes our God look small.
It’s understandably tempting to downplay our failures. Sin isn’t fun to talk about, so in some circles we don’t. This may be a backlash against an over-emphasis in the past – the classic “hellfire and brimstone” preacher wouldn’t be welcome in most churches today.
And of course awareness of sin doesn’t build a positive self-image. It’s discouraging to hear how far we fall short of God’s expectations. We’d rather be happy, and make others happy, so we prefer to talk about pleasant topics. Sin is not high on that list.
Whatever the reason, it’s a HUGE mistake to minimize the idea of sin. Because as our awareness of sin gets smaller, so does our picture of God.
Here’s how it works. If in our mind we’re mostly OK, if we’re just slightly flawed people who have a good heart and try our best but can’t quite get there, then God’s loving intervention in our lives is appreciated, but not overly surprising. We’re like the smart kid in class who gets some well-deserved attention from the teacher, but who was already doing pretty well without it.
But that’s not the way the Bible describes us. We aren’t mostly OK, we aren’t born with a good heart, and “our best” doesn’t even register on God’s radar screen. Isaiah 64 says that our righteous acts are like filthy rags before God – I cringe to think what our pride and lust and anger look like in His eyes. In Ephesians 2, Paul describes the human race as dead in sin – not handicapped, not disabled, not terminal. Dead.
Not mostly dead. Not almost dead. Just … dead.
Against the backdrop of that bad news, now we get to the good news. It won’t make you feel better about yourself, but it will give you a more awe-inspiring understanding of God.
He knows everything about you. He sees every self-centered act, He hears every arrogant boast or gossipy remark, and He knows every fantasy that you welcome into your mind. He is aware of the sins you notice, and He is aware of the ones you don’t.
And get this – amazingly, He loves you anyway! He really does. Paul celebrates that incredible fact in Romans 5:8 – “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners (wait, read that phrase again, it matters) Christ died for us.”
Do you see now what a mistake we make when we minimize our sinfulness? If our sin is small, then God’s love is small. It’s not hard to love the lovable, to reach out with compassion to those who just barely fall short and need a bit of a boost. Goodness, even you and I can do that. It’s not very impressive.
But if our sin is huge, and ugly, and repulsive, and inherently unlovable, then God’s love for us is … well, it’s amazing! It’s awesome! It’s unique to Him. It’s worth celebrating. It deserves to be the focus of songs and poems and prayers, as has been the case for centuries, and will be the case in heaven forever.
My knowledge of myself is limited, but even with that incomplete grasp of my sin, I could never see myself worthy of the sacrifice of Christ. That makes it all the more astounding that He knows me to the core, has understanding of me that is painfully complete, and He died for me anyway.
THAT is love! It’s a love that I can barely imagine – the kind that I could never deserve. I can’t wait to spend the rest of my life, and far longer, trying to understand it.
I invite you to do the same.
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