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The Greatest Sin of Our Age

September 10th, 2015 Leave a comment Go to comments

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By ignorance of the biblical narrative we can imagine an angry Old Testament God who responds to trivial offenses with apocalyptic overkill. That leads us moderns to either dismiss him as a primitive phantasm or to judge his character to be that of a nit-picking busybody. Thus we can either ignore his desires (because he doesn’t really exist) or we can follow him by being the same kinds of busybodies we imagine him to be. Most people know little to nothing about the narrative of the Bible, other than what they have “heard,” which is like listening to our “friends” on social media.

But the Old Testament when considered in context and in total reveals a God who created humans in love with the intent that they would love in return, and bestowed upon them the same dignity as he himself possesses. God’s wrath comes into play when humans reject the love of God and pursue love of self and created things. The sin of Adam and Eve had nothing to do with apples or sex. All of the injustices attributed to this so-called wrathful God are in fact the injustices perpetrated by humans against other humans in direct violation of both God’s commandments and character. And we read over and over in both the Old and New Testaments of God’s steadfast desire for his people to return to the way of justice, righteousness, and love, for their own blessing and the blessing of all the world.

I could probably write a whole book about that but this is a blog post so I want to try to keep it manageable. My real purpose here is to shine a different light on the conflict over same-sex marriage and sexual morality in general than we currently encounter in our national conversation. I think it is true that American culture is morally depraved. And I think it is true that one expression of that immorality is the apotheosis of sexual desire and satisfaction. Admit it: America is obsessed with sex. Americans seem to think about sex more than anything else. And I think there is some validity to the aphorism that what you think about the most is the object of your worship. I don’t think this makes America unique; I think probably everyone in every time and place has been subject to the same temptations and have or will succumb to them without moral diligence. Be that as it may, sex is the idol of our age.

But I wonder if the greatest sin of our age is not our sexual predilections but our preoccupation with sexual sins to the exclusion of other sins. Because our focus on these things does not reflect God’s character. Standing in moral judgment of another’s sins does not reflect God’s righteousness, justice, and love. It does not reflect Jesus’ commands to not judge, to see the mote in our own eye first, and to love others as he loved us.  Those who stand in pride upon their false righteousness would find Matthew chapter 23 instructive, if they could envision themselves in the place of the Pharisees whose hypocrisy Jesus condemns. Here is just a sample: “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness. These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others. You blind guides, straining out a gnat and swallowing a camel!” (Matthew 23:23-24 ESV)

Straining a gnat and swallowing a camel. Those who imagine themselves righteous by condemning their brothers and sisters stand idly by as children are incinerated by American drones, as whole populations suffer displacement because of violence and persecution, as people the world over die from lack of food, clean water, and basic medical care. We moan that a pagan culture acts like a pagan culture, and we conveniently ignore that our streets are aflame because of historical injustice, that young men in large numbers languish in jail, that our children are abandoning their lives to hopelessness that sees drugs as a reasonable escape. And we think ourselves clever when we are able to make arguments for or against what people do in their bedrooms. We devote all of our attention to that and none to the cries of the poor and the widow, the afflicted and the orphan. God does condemn sexual sin in both the Old and the New Testament. Sexual sin is destructive to the human creature in many ways. But the sin that breaks the covenant is not sex; it is abandonment of the way of justice and mercy.

It’s not just right wing Christians who are guilty of this. We live in a mad culture that makes heroes of both Kim Davis and Caitlyn Jenner. And this becomes the basis of our discourse. Gnats. While the camels go unremarked like the proverbial elephant in the living room.

The great sin of our age is that we cannot recognize what sin really is. The real sin is that we leave our brothers and sisters to suffer while we strain gnats.

 

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