Stop Downplaying Sin


I made a mistake.

I messed up.

I had good intentions but just couldn’t help myself.

I fell.

The way we talk about sin communicates what we believe about ourselves and God. And the current trend of a large portion of evangelical Christians is to use words or phrases to describe sin that in many ways downplays it. These euphemized words and phrases communicate that the blame could be elsewhere, and not with us. “I fell,” or, “I was tripped,” say that something outside of me is the real culprit. These words communicate that sin is something that is not done intentionally. Labeling sin as a mistake, messing up, and not being able to help oneself all are making the claim that sin is something that we accidentally stumble into and therefore we can’t be totally held accountable. I am sure we could go on with other ways people describe sin and how it is really pointing to a deeper belief. The sad thing is that the language used so commonly by certain Christians is downplaying the seriousness of sin.

I understand why they do it. And let’s be honest, why I do it. It sounds more compassionate when you shift the blame ever so slightly. It seems like we are helping people if we ease the guilt or shame a little. We believe that we are paving the way for them to hear us as we tell them how they can find forgiveness. But the ironic thing is, that by easing shame or guilt and by shifting blame, they stop listening because they see no reason they need to try to find forgiveness. In our efforts to make the reality of sin not as grotesque we have just made people’s sin seem manageable.

But that is not how the Bible talks about or describes sin. As R.C. Sproul states, “Sin is cosmic treason. Sin is treason against a perfectly pure Sovereign. It is an act of supreme ingratitude toward the One to whom we owe everything, to the One who has given us life itself.” Sin is a rebellion of the highest order. It is not something to say “oops” about. Sin is crouching at the door. Sin is a snare. It causes ruin and destruction. Death follows in its wake.

And we can’t shift the blame. We can’t claim it was an accident. See how Jeremiah 8:6 describes sin: “… no one relents of his evil, saying ‘what have I done?’ Everyone turns to his own course, like a horse plunging headlong into battle.” We sinners double down in our sin. We don’t relent or come to our senses. On our own, we keep digging the hole deeper and deeper. Not only that, but we charge into sin. The image of horses plunging into battle is one of us being out of control. We are much like the horse: galloping, charging, plunging toward sin. And yes, it can feel helpless. But it is also all our fault.

We need to let people feel the reality of this. Feel the hopelessness of it. Because it is only after they feel this that they will want to listen to our offer of hope. It is only after realizing their need for a Savior will they be ready to hear about the Savior.

So let us be clear about sin. Because by being clear about the grotesqueness of sin, we are clear about the beauty of our Savior.

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Adam Kareus

Adam is the lead pastor at River Valley Community Church in Fort Smith, AR. He graduated from Denver Seminar in 2009 with his M.Div. Adam is married to Kacee, and they have two kids, Titus and Jillian.

Adam Kareus