On Softening the Evil Word "Sin"

0000-2The theme for the latest issue of Modern Reformation (May-June 2014) is “Keeping Our Kids.” This is an important topic in the church today, one that I am passionate about. Brian Cosby, author of Giving Up Gimmicks, does a brief review of the latest bible curricula published for youth groups. He identifies five areas of substance that appear to be missing from many of these studies:
Historical-Redemptive Contexts
Actual Biblical Teaching
Avoidance of “Sin”
The Importance and Role of Parents or Church Leadership
These are all very important, but it just so happens that the Housewife Theologian small groups that I am leading this month are on the topic of sin. According to Cosby, “You will be hard-pressed to find much about ‘sin’ in these studies. Rather, you will find replacement words such as ‘troubles,’ ‘brokenness,’ ‘frustrations,’ and living in a way that isn’t the most healthy and happy.” I agree that this is really a problem. As a matter of fact, it isn’t just a problem in studies for youth groups. Why would we expect the material for our youth groups to call a spade a spade when we have so much trouble using the word “sin” as adults? Tonight in our small group, women are going to get together and discuss how sin is, as Jeremiah Burroughs titles his book, The Evil of Evils. If sin is a missing word in our vocabulary, evil is even more offensive. His premise is, “That it is a very evil choice for any soul under heaven to choose the least sin rather than the greatest affliction,” reasoning that “There is more evil in sin than in outward trouble in the world; more evil in sin than in all the miseries and torments of hell itself” (2,3). Think about it, when the youth in our midst look at the church they often see her on one hand carefully calculating to accept or modify obvious behavior that Scripture labels as sin, and on the other hand reserving the strong language to quibble over skirt lengths and education. The ultimate sin that a contemporary Christian seems to face is that of not being very nice. Maybe we need to spend some time talking more about what sin really is so that we are clear on why we are so desperate for Christ. Maybe the good news doesn’t sound all that radical to someone who is frustrated or merely broken and hoping for a makeover. But when you learn about the pure holiness of God, sin is seen as the evil of evils, something to abhor at all costs. And that leads us to think about what sin cost our Savior. Burroughs expounds:
Oh, you heavens!  How could you behold such a spectacle as this was?  How was the earth able to bear it?  Truly, neither heaven nor earth was able, for the Scripture says that the sun withdrew its light and was darkened so many hours. It was from twelve to three that the sun withdrew its light and did not shine, but there was dismal darkness in the world for it was unable to behold such a spectacle as this was. And the earth shook and trembled, and the graves opened and the rocks split in two, the very stones themselves were affected with such a work as this, and the vale of the Temple rent asunder. These things were done upon Christ’s bearing of the wrath of His Father for sin. Here you have the first fruits of God’s displeasure for sin, and in this you may see, surely, that sin must be a vile thing since it causes God the Father to deal thus with His Son when He had man’s sin upon Him. (102)
Surely we think of sin as too small a thing. The creation couldn’t even bear the sight of Christ carrying our sin, propitiating the Father’s wrath. Our holy Savior took on the greatest affliction of bearing our sin—every bit of it—as he faced his Father’s judgment instead of us. Could anything ever come close to showing us the evil of sin as God pouring His wrath for it on His Son? And not only are we able to turn to him for forgiveness, but his very righteousness is reckoned to us as well. Who else could be worthy of our praise and worship? Is there any affliction that we would choose sin over when we have Christ’s Holy Spirit to apply his glorious work to us and give us his very strength to avoid the evil of sin? Yes, even now, Jesus is at the right hand of the Father interceding for his people as we are being transformed into his own likeness. Why would we ever want to soften this language?