Chapter 3 - Sin: A Race Of Rebels

Every one who practices sin also practices lawlessness; and sin is lawlessness. 1 John 3:4 (NASB)

The wrongness of the sinful act lies not merely in its nonconformity, or its departure from the accepted, appropriate way of behavior, but in an implicitly aggressive quality—a ruthlessness, a hurting, a breaking away from God and from the rest of humanity … alienation or (an) act of rebellion. [1]Karl Menninger, Whatever Became of Sin, Hawthorn, p. 19. Dr. Karl Menninger

The Earth is also polluted by its inhabitants, for they transgressed laws, violated statutes (and) broke the everlasting covenant. Isaiah 24:5 (NASB)

In his definition of the nature of sin, Dr. Menninger goes on to say:

Sin has a willful, defiant, or disloyal quality; some- one is defied or offended or hurt. The willful disregard or sacrifice of the welfare of others for the welfare or satisfaction of the self is an essential quality of the concept of sin. [2]Ibid., p. 19.

That’s a fine definition, even coming from a man who makes no profession of faith in Jesus Christ. Even Webster’s Dictionary gives a better definition of sin than do most “born again” Christians:

Sin is transgression of the law of God; disobedience of the divine will, moral failure. Sin is failure to realize in conduct and character the moral ideal, at least as fully as possible under existing circumstances; failure to do as one ought toward one’s fellowman.

Sin has lost its prominence and most certainly its popularity as a sermon theme for clergymen searching for a word to pass onto their congregations. It isn’t so much that preaching on sin and guilt has lost its effectiveness as it is a matter of contemporary pastoral preference. In the foreboding and depressing atmosphere of our troubled times, a man of the cloth, if he is to enjoy success, must give attention to inspirational themes. Topics revolving around love, unity and grace are “hot” sermons and very much in demand by religious constituencies; while messages having to do with sin, guilt and repentance are currently experiencing a steady decline. The popularity of the new “freedom messages” is indicative of the direction of the church. “Inner Healing,” a la Ruth Carter Stapleton, and the PMA (positive mental attitude) seminars are prime examples of the trend away from piercing sermons on guilt and sin.

We have witnessed the arrival of the day when the church has begun to place more emphasis on the results of sin than on sin itself. We have observed the shocking metamorphosis of sin as it discards its old cocoon of personal, moral responsibility to take on the form of a sickness. It seemed strange to begin this chapter with a definition of sin. Yet today it seems there are more views on sin than there are flavors of ice cream. People embrace doctrines like they do almost everything else in our society, donning whatever is in fashion, and thus the need for definition. It is reminiscent of the day on Mount Sinai when God, as a result of the lost relationship, had to write down man’s moral obligations.

About a decade ago prominent psychiatrist Dr. Karl Menninger lectured a group of young seminarians at Princeton Theological Seminary. It was here that he first began to sense, as he put it, the “anxious and unsettled feelings” within the clergy. After several more years of evaluating the problem, he stated “they have become shaken reeds, smoking lamps, earthen vessels… spent arrows. They have lost heart.” The intoxication of success combined with the fear of failure has affected far too many ministers of the gospel. The net result is a series of sermons tailored (often subconsciously) to suit the people.

And they come unto thee as the people cometh, and they sit before thee as my people, and they hear thy words, but they will not do them: for with their mouth they show much love, but their heart goeth after their covetousness. Ezekiel 33:31

My sheep wandered through all the mountains, and upon every high hill: yea, my flock was scattered upon all the face of the earth, and none did search or seek after them. Therefore ye shepherds; hear the word of the Lord; … Thus saith the Lord God; Behold, I am against the shepherds; and I will require my flock at their hand, and cause them to cease from feeding the flock; neither shall the shepherds feed themselves any more; for I will deliver my flock from their mouth, that they may not be meat for them. Ezekiel 34:6–7,10

Footnotes   [ + ]

1. Karl Menninger, Whatever Became of Sin, Hawthorn, p. 19.
2. Ibid., p. 19.