Some churches — even in my own Presbytery — do not talk about sin. Sin is one of those subjects that society as a whole has come to reject. Even clearly bad things and people are being reframed. Take the film industry as an example. Disney has reimagined two of its villains, Maleficent (2014) and Cruella (2021), offering explanations for their villainy and sympathy for their humanity. This is not a new trend. One of my favorite films, The Godfather (1972) invites me to sympathize with ruthless criminals. Christians need not avoid these films and stories, but we must approach them with a biblical worldview.
That Hollywood reframes sin and false churches ignore it does not make it so. When it comes to morality and sinfulness, the Bible is our only dictionary. Some in society ignore sin all together. That is clearly an unbiblical approach and something I won’t even bother addressing in this article. Others in society don’t ignore sin, but redefine it. For them, sin isn’t so much what you or I do; it’s more what is done to us. This phraseology finds popularity in victim mentality. Critiques, even if true, are considered “microaggressions.” Honest questions, even if asked in naiveté, are labeled with “trigger warnings.” It doesn’t matter if the critique was valid or the question harmless, if a person felt victimized, they can claim it as true.
This, of course, bounces to another subject: moral relativism and subjective verity. Moral relativism argues that what is morally good to you might be morally bad or neutral for me. Euthanasia is growing in popularity in Europe because the value of life is relative to a person’s experience. Subjective verity (a phrase I just made up) springboards off of moral relativism and takes the next step to say “my relative experience is not only valuable but also the truth.” This often carries with it the connotation that that “truth” cannot be contested. Yet that “truth” is based on emotion rather than fact.
Solomon rightly contrasts “The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but a wise man is he who listens to counsel.” (Prov. 12:15) It is folly to trust in our own subjective experience. Certainly, our perspective brings something to the table, but when it comes to understanding God’s design and definitions, we must leave our subjectivity at the door. Jeremiah suffered great distress during his ministry, to the point where he laments, “My soul has been rejected from peace; I have forgotten happiness.” If Jeremiah visited a modern psychologist, the Prophet would’ve left thinking, “well, the truth is I have no peace and can recall no happiness,” and been prescribed some remedy. Thankfully Jeremiah knew his experience of forsakenness was just that, an experience, and not reality. What is real and certain and unchanging is God. “This I recall to my mind, therefore, I have hope: The Lord’s loving kindnesses indeed never cease, for His compassions never fail.” (Lam. 3:21-22)
God defines sin. Sin is not something a system does. Sin is not something that only happens to people. Sin is not something only a certain kind or class of person commits. “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Rom. 3:23) Sin is anything ungodliness and unrighteousness that suppresses the truth of God (Rom 1:18). Sin is very much something we do, and something we do often. While sinning is relative to each person, it is objective to our nature. Repent and return, trusting in the steadfastness of God’s promise to forgive.