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Please, Stop Saying All Sin Is Sin: The Death of Wisdom in the Death of Christ?

all sin is sinIt is often the case that in a misguided attempt to combat one thing, human beings inadvertently destroy something else… or cause the very thing they seek to avert. It’s the natural result of being short-sighted, selfish, and prone to seek the path of least resistance. Nobody is smart enough or wise enough to anticipate ALL the consequences of his or her actions in highly complex cause-effect systems like cultures, ecologies, economies and societies.

Biblical wisdom, however, makes such anticipations a multi-generational study and art through a brutal honesty about human nature and God’s creation paradigms, garnered through a keen observation of reality. Neither ignorance of, nor the ignoring of reality will spare the fool, no matter how tender the fool’s feelings for others. Our good intentions don’t prevent disaster when our actions are misguided.

It reminds me of an event that I remember clearly from my child-training days (Both my son and my wife insist it never happened, but I think their prejudiced) My son was always a bit of a nervous kid, too intelligent and danger-aware for his own wisdom at times. His younger sister was standing at the top of a flight of stairs in our Wisconsin home, and, afraid that she might topple down them, he rushed at her to pull her back, yelling, “Watch out!” summarily knocking her down the precipice himself.

This is the case with an oft chanted, oft blogged, oft FB-ed, oft tweeted attempt to combat what some feel is an exaggerated response from Christians to any given media-celebrated debauchery de jour, most recently gay marriage, and transgender bathroom & locker room use—“All sin is sin.” This is usually followed up with, “No sin is any worse than any other sin. Selah.”

Let us pause for a moment… yeeeeaaaah, let us forget Brothers and Sisters that this sentiment flies in the face of more than a few texts of Scripture and every sense of wisdom… let us simply bask in the fullness of its pseudo-theological glory. Let us intone the wonder of Hemingway’s twilight in The Sun Also Rises and say, “Isn’t it pretty to think so.”

One seldom finds a testament to worldview struggle in such a small package as this little ditty. A day does not pass on social media that I do not find some earnest and often well-trained Christian minister bleating it out like he or she is quoting the Lord’s Prayer itself.

Of course, all sin is sin in reference to our state before divine holiness, and our need for forgiveness and redemption and regeneration and every other metaphor for that thing in Christ’s death and our faith and repentance that keeps us from paying the eternal price for being fundamentally at enmity with our creator.

This is not, however, the whole truth concerning the circumstances of humanity in society in the this-world struggle for corporate and personal divine order… you know… that thing that sits at the core of biblical theology in both testaments… that work that is the very commission of Israel and the church in the midst of a world lost in darkness… that calling that is meant to engross us until our breath gives out, and to engross our spiritual children ‘til Jesus comes in glory riding upon the clouds of heaven, the holy angels with Him—Kingdom of God.

In this reality, we face a complex struggle that is not made easier by fictional platitudes meant to placate the emotional demands of a world whose own philosophical foundations are cracked and crumbling and set securely in sewer sludge. Yet, they set the tune, and in our own earnest desire to win them over, we dance to it.

We use their manipulative vocabulary and categories… we embrace their worldview… We fear their offense more than we fear anything, and convince ourselves that we cannot win them at all if they are offended. “Not offending” has become our anxious mantra amid a society and race that is perpetually offended by everything that does not celebrate their darkest desires.

We seek to walk a tightrope strung between our own commitment to Scripture, which we read through a modern lens, black highlighter in hand, and our determination to reflect a whole new set of cultural values that have been set up to replace historic Christian ones—inclusiveness, equality of result without equality of input, standard-less-ness, freedom to live an unoffended life.

Frankly, we just don’t know what to do in the face of such a wholesale culture war as this. We are in tension and often flounder on that rope.  We are so afraid to be like the Pharisees…

(a group that has, together with the other Religious Rulers whom Jesus combats, become a caricature in our minds, a handy straw man for anyone who strives to hold any standard at all that makes the media’s most recent mascots feel bad)

…yes, we are so afraid to be like the Pharisees that we make ill-conceived remarks like, “All sin is sin” and fill our churches up with the unrepentant.

Did we learn nothing from The failed half-way covenants of Jonathan Edward’s day. If you just asked yourself, “Whose Jonathan Edwards?” or “What’s a half-way covenant?” that’s my answer to that question. We are so eager to show them that we are loving that we act without wisdom.

The Media has made certain sinners their darling mascots, misrepresenting their cases, the nature of their sins, and every real world effect associated with them.

Eager for relevance and cultural hipness, we rush to the dance floor and jig that tune. They are victims of society you see, and we must live out a pretense that they are harmless to our congregations and society, that their agenda is nothing but a wounded heart’s cry for a big Jesus hug, that “All sin is sin; No sin is any worse than any other sin. Selah.”

The problem is that, in the real world of family, community, culture, society and nation, this just isn’t true, isn’t practical, isn’t wisdom. Even so, one does not make them less worthy of salvation or make disciplined Christians more worthy of salvation by knowing it. There is more going on in the Kingdom of God and in the human soul than striving for the warm fuzzy knowledge that somebody cares. There is the call to repentance, the path of radical discipleship, the way of growing sanctification.

In truth, some sins ARE worse than others. Some sins are more ensnaring, harder to escape, do more this-world damage, and, being so difficult to unseat and so insidious in their contagion, some sins do more that-world damage as well.

We are all sinners, but do we really want to suggest that lusting is equal to adultery in terms of real world consequence? Adultery in the heart is still sin, but it’s NOT the same as adultery in the body.

We are all sinners, but would anyone think that we should deal with gossip with the same determination as murder? Are we to equate fornication with homosexuality, pedophilia, bestiality or necrophilia? Indeed, are you offended that I placed these sins together in a list?

Let me quote an ex-homosexual friend on this score.[1] “The fornicator follows an undisciplined but wholly natural path of innate sexual desires, but the homosexual rebels against the very order of creation itself.” So too does our most recent Media pet, transgenders.

Some sins destroy the sinner to greater or lesser degrees, making them harder and sometimes impossible to reach… and some sins destroy those around the sinner to devastating levels, making them just as hard and sometimes equally impossible to reach. One cannot win the dead to Christ, and some sins spread untimely death like plague.

Yes! God HAS shown Himself willing and able to redeem the most horrible of sinners, Like Paul who gleefully superintended the murder of Stephen and of numerous others for their profession of Jesus… like abortion doctors whose personal murder counts are into the 10s of thousands… military butchers who’ve participated in the genocide of millions… rapists… and yes, homosexuals and those who’ve followed their own mental illness into gender bending depravities of body and soul… BUT Wisdom demands more developed considerations than spiritually self-medicating pick me ups.

Consider: JudgeNotCartoon

  • There is real world collateral damage that some sins cause society and those in it. We have obligations here; we need to put up guardrails and warning signs before those cliffs. We need to be as concerned about those on this side of those guardrails as we are for those who’ve crashed through them and lay in heaps at the bottom of those cliffs.
  • The road of discipleship is radically different for those who have been involved in some types of sin. Jesus readily acknowledged that scribes who became disciples drew from their storehouses treasures new and old. Paul knew that the Jews in those communities where he preached the gospel were the best place to begin… converted Jews became instant leadership and a strong foundation for a local church. He also knew from experience that many a Gentile proved difficult to disciple and that some, like those in the Corinthian Church proved a little more than difficult. Some sins leave a person permanently tainted… should we ever allow a repentant pedophile to take over Children’s ministries? EVER?
  • We are called to preserve a community of faith and not merely hold services that are filled with those we are trying to reach. There is a great tension of vision for “church” in which some envision the church as the preservation of an upper-room exclusivity and others envision the church as a Corinthian Mental Hospital. On the one hand, the work of the church is not limited to the congregational meetings; we can reach out without destroying the very existence of a like-minded gathering of believers. On the other hand, wisdom asks what happens when those we are trying reach are so comfortable in our meetings that years go by and they and everyone else in the congregation forgets that they are unrepentant and unsaved. How long ‘til their deepest depravities become commonplace in the minds of our growing and impressionable children. Think it can’t happen? Two words for you… Half-way Covenant.
  • Vast portions of Scripture speak to the demand to fight a chaos battle for the stability of society under principles and laws that promote righteousness and establish a rich seedbed for the planting of the gospel in human souls.
  • The circumstances of the early church are not normative. While the first Christians strove in a Roman society that cut off opportunity to participate in society save in the most fringe ways, this is not a required paradigm for the Christian Mission. As members of a free-society with unprecedented opportunity to shape culture, we have much to learn about those myriads of texts that speak to the struggle to preserve and enrich that seedbed in our own society. Unintended consequences cuts both ways. The political struggle to maintain certain cultural paradigms has a powerful impact on the salvation of souls. If this is offensive or confusing to you, investigate what the Apostle Paul has to say about the power of Law as a tutor that brings us to Christ. We cannot allow lawlessness to grow unfettered in our community without loosing the power of that tutor and without forsaking those many souls that such a tutor might help bring to Christ.
  • One is not more likely, but rather less likely, to come to a true saving faith when their sin is made smaller in their eyes, and smaller in the preacher’s eyes. The gospel is offensive to the sinner who refuses to repent or who refuses to even acknowledge himself or herself as a sinner in need of repentance. Do you really imagine that if the church only got its message and presentation right, perfecting “love,” that all the world would repent before God and flock to Jesus? That’s delusional.
  • While a self-sufficient religious community who imagines themselves more worthy of salvation for the goodness of their works is abhorrent to God, the solution is not a diminishment of the vileness of certain sins, or ignoring or else deceiving others about the real world consequences of certain actions. One of the most influential evangelists in Christian history said, [I paraphrase] “When I preach, I preach God as holy and awesome as I can, and I preach the sinner as vile and far from God as I can. I preach the gap between God and man as wide as possible. For the bigger I make the gap between God and man in my preaching, the bigger Christ becomes in the life of the repentant sinner… For Jesus is the gap filler.” Hate is a matter of the heart and we must not allow ourselves to forsake millennia of Christian theology and the wisdom of their preaching because we’ve bought into our generation’s delusional definitions of hate as “even hinting that someone else is wrong about life choices.”
  • Love does not rejoice in unrighteousness, it rejoices with the truth. How can we call ourselves loving, if we choose a path of ministry that ignores the real world realities of sins. How can we call ourselves loving, if we become enablers of the worst forms of human wickedness? How can we call ourselves loving if we destroy the community of God by adopting the worldview of our age? How can we call ourselves loving when we corrupt the gathering together of believers by casting off those standards for community that Paul, himself, demanded so ruthlessly throughout his writings? How can we call ourselves loving when we are so myopically fixed on looking loving to media mascots that we sacrifice our little ones on the altar of social relevance and acceptance.

Indeed, as I read so many hip Christian bloggers blather on and on about opening the doors of our churches to make every type of sinner welcome, comfortable, and unjudged in our midst, I want to ask them, “Do you really think that the death of Christ meant the death of wisdom?”

[1] If you chaffed at the term ex-homosexual, you are pretty far gone in terms of absorbing the progressive agenda for you. You perhaps imagine that homosexual is what you ARE and not merely what you DO. You, perhaps, imagine that these states are reached by genetic determination and not by post birth corruptions. You have, perhaps, bought the whole progressive farm and need a world-view re-education.

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