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Nowadays the word sin carries with it an understanding of things ‘naughty but nice’. There are organisations that allow you so many ‘sins’ a day whilst restaurants place the word in the dessert section of the menu. The word is used glibly with a laugh and a joke which I feel somehow minimizes the Christian use of the word.
Sin is what sent Jesus to the cross and anyone seriously taking their faith would find little to laugh at that!
You might think that I’m being melodramatic and a bit of a killjoy in taking this topic for this Easter issue of The Avenue Newsletter, but I want to focus on it because minimizing sin reduces the impact of the Cross.
The Cross of Christ is the foundation for the forgiveness of sin, Paul states clearly, ‘Christ died for our sins’ (1 Corinthians 15:3). It is a stated fact of history that Jesus lived and died and few would deny that, nor the manner in which he died. For Paul Jesus wasn’t just a good dead man, his life and death meant something else and that is our salvation.
The Cambridge Dictionary defines salvation as, ‘(a way of) being saved from danger, loss, or harm'. In the context of our Christian faith we are therefore saved from ‘something’ and Paul says ‘sin’ is that ‘something’, so we are saved from sin.
If the central component of the Gospel (Good News) is that Jesus Christ saves his people from their sin then it’s important to recognize its significance. The heart of the Christian faith is God’s grace lived out through Christ and if we don’t understand sin then our faith makes little sense.
I’ve not come across many people or arguments that have convinced me that things are right with the world. Just think of a few of the issues we regularly face such injustices, poverty, wars, abuse (human & animal), terrorism, cruelty, neglect, addictions (drug, alcohol etc), climate change, disease, racism, population growth, sexism, gender issues and pollution. As I was sharing this message on Easter Day bombs went off in Sri Lanka killing 290 (and rising) people in places of worship and hotels.
There are all kinds of troubles in the world and anyone who is serious about morality and life cannot come to any other conclusion than that there’s something wrong.
This is where it gets interesting because we don’t all have the same diagnosis let alone remedies. Take something like ‘climate change,’ people are still divided as to whether there is a problem or not, let alone how to solve it and all the while the problem gets bigger.
The Christian diagnosis is that human beings, created by God, keep living against the will of God (which is what we call sin) and the consequences are partly what we’re experiencing. I don’t think any of us are born bad, babies and children have so many wonderful characteristics about them that are almost a hallmark of humanity. Someone chose readings from Isaiah in their personal Lenten devotions alongside the excellent discussions from ‘Ask me Another’. It was Isaiah that had the visions of the new world where everyone was kind and loving equally sharing all they had with each other. One of the visions illustrated this harmony as lions, wolves, lambs, leopards and goats all lived happily ever after.
Another aspect of the Christian diagnosis can be seen in Paul’s mysterious struggle going on inside him when he screams, ‘why do I do the things I don’t want to do and the things I do want to do, I don’t?’ (Romans 7: 15-20)
I think we live a life where the desire to want has the power to override what we know are dire consequences and yet still we proceed which results in heartache and pain.
If the central component of the Gospel is Jesus Christ saving his people from their sins then we need to focus on Christ Crucified & Raised to Life, not the sin! If we acknowledge Jesus Christ as Saviour and Lord then Easter provides us with hope through the forgiveness of sins and enables us to live properly within God’s creation.
I know lots of people feel that little or no acknowledgement is evident in the western world today, but that’s not a new feeling, C.S. Lewis suggested the same in his day (1940’s) when he wrote a ‘ a sense of sin is totally lacking ’and how people blame others for things that go wrong - nothing new there then!
John Bunyan in Pilgrim’s Progress, tells of Pilgrim struggling to walk under the ‘burden of sin, ’where finally he lays that burden of sin down at the foot of the Cross and walks joyfully and confidently into the future liberated by Christ.
I hope you have a meaningful Eastertide,
Grace and peace,