Thursday, April 16, 2015

Is sin just an opinion?

Truth spelled in Scrabble letters
TODAY'S SPECIAL: 1 John 3:1-10

TO CHEW ON: "Whoever commits sin also commits lawlessness, and sin is lawlessness." 1 John 3:4

More and more our society is losing its connection to moral absolutes. Justin P. McBrayer (a Colorado professor of philosophy) writes recently in the Opinionator column of the New York Times: "What would you say if you found out that our public schools were teaching children it is not true to say that it's wrong to kill people for fun or cheat on tests? Would you be surprised?"

He goes on to describe his visit to his son's Grade 2 classroom where two definitions hung over the bulletin board:

"Fact: Something that is true about a subject and can be tested or proven.
Opinion: What someone thinks, feels or believes."

These two definitions, he points out, leave no room for things that are true even if no once can prove them and things that we believe which can also be proven, like historical facts. He found assignments where kids were asked to categorize statements as facts or opinions. When sorting statements such as  "Copying homework assignments is wrong" and "Cursing in school is inappropriate behaviour" the correct answer was that they were opinions. His conclusion:

"In summary, our public schools teach students that all claims are either facts or opinions and that all value and moral claims fall into the latter camp. The punchline: there are no moral facts. And if there are no moral facts, then there are no moral truths" - reported by Dr. Albert Mohler in "The Briefing 03-20-15," original article"Why Our Children Don't Think There Are Moral Facts").

This, of course, is a far cry from what the Bible teaches. Today's reading from 1 John 3 repeats the word "sin" in various forms ten times. Sin, by its very definition, assumes that moral facts (truths) exist:

[Sin - hamartia: to miss the mark; to err, be mistaken; to wander from the law of Gd; violate God's law.]

What is sin, according to the Bible?
  • The verse we're focusing on defines sin as lawlessness or rebellion against God's law - 1 John 3:4.
  • Unrestrained talk and foolishness are both called sin - Proverbs 10:19; 24:9.
  • Contempt for others is sin - Proverbs 14:21.
  • Whatever is not done from faith is sin - Romans 14:23.
  • Failing to do something good when we have the ability/opportunity to do it is sin - James 4:17.
  • All unrighteousness is sin - 1 John 5:17.

Though governing our lives by these standards may put us increasingly out of step with a world that insists God's standards are mere opinions, I'd rather find myself in the company that John describes at the beginning of the chapter: "called children of God," "like Him," full of the "hope" of seeing Him. As a result I need to line up my life with His standards of purity (1 John 3:1-3) no matter what others think of them.

PRAYER: Dear God, help me grow in my sensitivity and abhorrence to the things You consider sin and to live for the day I see You. Amen.

Unless otherwise noted all Scripture quotations are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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