Pulpit Reflections by the Rev. Robert Grossman Providence Reformed Church What Ever Happened to Sin? is the title of a book written some years ago by Dr. Carl Menninger, psychiatrist-director of the justly famous Menninger Psychiatric Clinic in Topeka, KS. Dr. Menninger rightly observed that the denial of personal responsibility, and of the reality of right and wrong, are themselves wrong ideas, and are having devastating effects on our society.
Dr. Menninger was calling his own medical specialty to stop denying the reality of sin and personal responsibility. But Dr. Menninger's book has an important message for all of us.
Talking about sin speaks first of all about the fact that all of us are responsible for what we do. The fact that millions of hard-working and honest Americans have grown up in poverty proves that poverty is NOT the cause of crime.
Absolving drug dealers, muggers and murderers of blame for their crimes because they "grew up in poverty," is just an excuse that not only hurts all of society but hurts the criminals themselves by implying that they can continue in crime because their crimes are "not their fault."
The same thing is true of our wealthy criminals who have robbed stockholders and the public thinking that skimming off a few million dollars is smart business but not a personal crime.
Talking about sin also speaks to the moral issue of right and wrong. The sexual revolution in the 1960s was much broader than sex. It has left us with a nation in which there is no right and wrong. Our moral confusion and ignorance is such that we call the sin of adultery "making love," when it is in fact scarring the consciences of those who do it, making them quite open to other sins.
College students today think they have a "right" to cheat on exams because it is so common. We call getting drunk on drugs or alcohol "getting high," not the social and personal sin that it is, a sin the Bible tells us will be punished by God in hell.
Oh yes, Virginia, there is a hell for the punishment of sinners, and God has given us the Ten Commandments to teach us our sins. All of us, you see, whether we are criminals or upstanding citizens, do commit sins. And all of us need to learn to deal with our sins.
Christianity is unique among the religions in that it teaches NOT that we can please God by being good in ourselves, but that God is merciful and will forgive our sins. God had provided a Savior, his son Jesus Christ, who died on the cross to bear the punishment of our sins.
When we confess our sins, God promises to forgive them (1 John 1:9). When we hide them or deny them, God promises to punish them (John 3:18). As our churches have lost this message of sin and forgiveness, and have begun to teach "be good and God will like you," our pews have become empty and our society has stopped hearing our voice.
Jesus said, "I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance (Mat. 9:13). To truly be a Christian, and to truly be a positive force in our society, you and I need to obey Christ's call because, "if we say we have no sin, we make him (God) out to be a liar, and his word is not in us."
Christianity has been and can be a powerful moral force in our society, but only if we stop being afraid to talk about sin.