Writer, editor, stumbler after Jesus

The three-letter offense

WE LIVE IN a time when you can use pretty much any four-letter word with impunity, whether in public or on social media. But use a certain three-letter word—sin—and people get all bent out of shape.

“That’s so judgmental,” goes the argument. “Who are you to tell anyone else that they are wrong?” Meanwhile, the self-appointed “thought police” are watching and waiting to jump on anyone who offers an opinion that doesn’t confirm to what they determine to be the acceptable narrative or worldview. 

Interestingly, because there is no acknowledgment of sin in the wider culture, there’s also no opportunity for forgiveness. Once you are outed for some indiscretion that may have happened years ago, you are beyond redemption. No matter how much you may have changed or repented in the interim, you’re toast.

The Bible offers a different perspective. It posits that sin is a condition we all share, whatever our background or worldview. In that sense, it’s not a judgment of others, it’s an acknowledgment of their (fallen) humanity. Romans 3:23 says that all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.

But because “sin” is such a hot-button word, it can be tempting to avoid using it. So, many times, the church emphasizes other aspects of Jesus’s nature and character. We talk about Him as a friend, a brother, a healer, a guide, a shepherd and more. And yes, He is all of these and many more.

But above and beyond and before and primarily and supremely, Scripture makes it clear that He is a Savior.

The Old Testament is filled with prophecies about the Messiah coming to free God’s people from physical and spiritual bondage. Jesus’s very name is a form of Joshua, which means “God is salvation.”

When the angels announced Jesus’s birth to the shepherds on the hill near Bethlehem, they proclaimed, “For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior” (Luke 2:11).

When John the Baptist first saw Jesus when He came to be baptized at the River Jordan, John declared, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29).

Jesus spoke of Himself similarly. For example: “The Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost (Luke 19:10).

The leaders of the early church underscored this emphasis. The apostle John wrote that Jesus appeared in order to take away sins (1 John 3:5), and that God the Father had sent Him “to be the Savior of the world” (1 John 4:14).

The apostle Paul told his young protégé, Timothy, that “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners” (1 Timothy 1:15).

The Bible is pretty clear about the centrality of the world’s problem and Jesus’s mission.

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