It may come as a surprise to many Christians, but our society really does believe in sin. Of course, the issue is who determines what sin it. Our culture at large believes it is a sin to deny two persons of the same sex the opportunity to have their union sanctioned by the state. It is a sin to declare that the only way to God is through Jesus Christ. It is a sin to prohibit a woman from having an abortionist end the life of her unborn child. Eating French fries is a sin. Eating anything fried is a sin!
An increasing number are saying that parents who teach their children such things as biblical creation, the exclusivity of the gospel, traditional marriage, and the wrongness of abortion are guilty of child abuse. We laugh at such extremism, but if the last five decades have taught us anything, it has taught us that today’s extremists become tomorrow’s academicians and politicians.
The issue of sin is a mixed up affair in America. We get some things right. Theft is still a sin. You cannot walk in a bank and demand money that belongs to others without consequence. Lying is considered a sin, depending upon who is lying to whom. It’s all relative, right?
That is the heart of the issue. Who determines what makes sin “sin”? Our culture pronounces that society itself is the final arbiter, the final say in what makes something sinful. Will such a pronouncement hold up? German society did not rise up against the concentration camps under Hitler. History is replete with examples of a society committing what later societies would denounce as wickedness. Who today holds the guillotine of the French Revolution in high esteem? Well, outside of places such as Iran and North Korea, that is.
Christians will say that something is sinful because the Bible says it is wrong. The Bible is certainly the place we want to go in order to categorize actions, but the question is not which actions are wrong, but why such actions are deemed sinful to begin with. Why is sin really a bad thing?
Martyn Lloyd-Jones, the long-time pastor of Westminster Chapel in London during the mid-twentieth century, throws light on the question: “Our view of sin has gone astray. We tend to think of certain actions as being sinful, and when we say that we have sinned we mean only that we have done something wrong, and that we are bearing the consequences of that. All that is true about sin, but the real essence of sin is that we are not giving the glory to God that is due to Him” (David Martyn Lloyd-Jones, God’s Ultimate Purpose: An Exposition of Ephesians 1:1 to 23 [Edinburgh; Carlisle, Pa.: Banner of Truth Trust, 1978], 132).
Sin is so bad because it is rebellion against the creator God. This is his universe. All glory is due him. When we violate his commands, we seek glory for ourselves. We say that we are in charge, we are the authority, we determine what is right and what is wrong. We usurp the place of God.
Why is sin so bad? The apostle Paul puts it this way: “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world,in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things. Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.”