The Gravity of Sin
Fleming Rutledge asks, “What sort of predicament are you and I in that we should require the crucifixion of the Son of God?” Or as Stephen Westerholm notes, “So catastrophic a remedy demands a catastrophic predicament.” In other words, “how sinful are we?” If the cross of Jesus is the remedy for sin, then perhaps our problem with sin is deeper than most people think.
What do people think about sin?
Well for starters, the secularist often scoffs at the notion of sin. Like the great American tycoon, Andrew Carnegie wrote in his autobiography, “All is well since all grows better.” Having embraced an evolutionary worldview, he embraced an optimistic view of humanity that was always getting better as man perpetually moved from lower forms to higher forms.
Ironically, the final paragraph of his autobiography ends rather abruptly as he ponders the realities of World War I. He writes, “As I read this today what a change! The world convulsed by war as never before! Men slaying each other like wild beasts! I dare not relinquish all hope.” The headlines of war betrayed his view of the good nature of man.
But what do many Christians think about sin? I think sometimes as Christians, we don’t think enough of sin. We reduce it down to “wrongdoing.” This approach to sin leads to a casual and relative view of sin. This view causes us to pray rather pompously, “God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector.” It is a casual approach that suggests the remedy is as simple as cleaning up your act. C. S. Lewis reminds us, though, “Fallen man is not simply an imperfect creature who needs improvement; he is a rebel who must lay down his arms.”
Sin, therefore, is not just a collection of misdeeds, but rather it is a power at work in us and in this world. Fleming writes, “sin is being catastrophically separated from the eternal love of God... It means to be helplessly trapped inside one’s own worse self, miserably aware of the chasm between the way we are and the way God intends us to be.” Our misdeeds are signs of this power at work in and through us. But in the end, both Sin and Death are our cosmic Enemies.
Perhaps to answer the question, “how sinful are we?”, the best thing to do is go to the cross. If the cross is the remedy for sin, our sin is greater and more pervasive than we often think. It is the cross that causes us to bow in humility and cry out, “God have mercy on me a sinner.”
It is the cross that fills us with compassion for a sinful world. The world is not our enemy. The world is a victim of the enemy. And so the cross leads us to love the sinner as we have been loved by the Savior.
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