Sin is one of the hardest subjects to speak about well today. As Francis Spufford observes in his book Unapologetic we think of sin as trivial naughtiness, prompting him to try the term HPTFTU as an alternative phrase. It's easily misheard or is a term that quickly offends in a way that prevents further dialogue.
Careful thought is needed. I loved reading Neal Plantinga's book Not the way its supposed to be, last year. It's a thoughtful and careful discussion of how to think about this subject. He draws together the varied biblical language and category so that we might take this subject more seriously.
The biblical approach to sin isn't monochrome. Different audiences are addressed differently. Jesus was accused of being sin-lite by the Pharisees who blindly missed his confrontation of their parading and privilege and pomp whilst grunting and grumbling about his acceptance of 'tax collectors and sinners'.
The outsiders were deeply aware of having broken God's world and presumed their own exclusion from his people - they needed his welcome. The insiders presumed their place at the table and missed the light shining in plain sight.
The self-religious think that God should talk about sin more but miss when he does, and then take offence at the welcome he gives to those who self-exclude from his family because they're far more sensitive to their sin.
We become dull in our hearts and blame others for not forcing us to be more 'godly' as if that were possible. 'If you'd done your job I'd be less sinful...' The corruption is deep, deeper than we dare admit or know.
For all references to 'we' here, read I.
The night is dark, but the morning far brighter.
Sin is a slippery subject, simultaneously a terrible and delicious experience, and a devilish reality. "The line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being" (Solzhenitsyn) and Plantinga offers to be our guide as we try to get clarity as we stumble in the shadows, cast in contrast to the bright light of Jesus.
TGC has this essay version as a pdf which condenses it significantly and gives an excellent overview.
- Essay: SIN:NOT THE WAY IT’S SUPPOSED TO BE - Cornelius Plantinga Jr
- Book: Not the way it's supposed to be - Cornelius Plantinga Jr (1995)
Image, creative commons.