A few days ago while standing in the checkout line in the grocery store, a man behind me commented about the plans he and his wife had to attend a movie when their shopping was concluded. His enthusiasm didn’t seem to be registering very high on the emotional Richter scale. I responded with the observation that it is extremely difficult to find a movie worth watching. He painfully agreed and then went off like a roman candle about the self-serving, sanctimonious, judgmental attitudes of Hollywood. Protruding veins in his neck and the reddening of his face seemed to provide evidence of rising blood pressure. I didn’t want the poor fellow to have a stroke so I attempted to change the subject, citing my similar disgust for the NFL’s disrespect for our nation’s flag. Bad calculation on my part! Not only did his feelings correspond with mine, but I was quite certain his blood pressure spiked another ten points.
I have no idea what this gentleman’s political affiliation or leanings are, but this brief encounter provided further evidence of a growing dissatisfaction many Americans have with the entertainment industry and their cozy friends in the media. This is the crowd that appears to have no ability to judge themselves but possesses an insatiable appetite to render verdicts on others. The average hardworking, lunch bucket citizen retains an instinctive knowledge of God’s correct assessment: “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). Compliment this with: “As it is written, there is none righteous, no, not one” (Romans 3:10), and we have a universal application that escapes no one. The beer and bowling bunch is growing weary of the wine imbibing Pharisees.
Last week we rehearsed Billy Graham’s prayer for America. He hit the visible points of the insidious glacier that threatens our nation, but much more lays beneath the surface when understanding the nature of sin. Pondering this refreshed a memory of a definition given by an old mentor who dove deep into the sea of discernment. In gratitude for his wisdom, the following is submitted:
‘Sin’ is to feel a secret pride in success, training, or appearance. It is feeling an important, independent spirit or feeling bitter over what someone has told you about the success or good fortune of someone you don’t like. It is a harsh, sarcastic, or unyielding spirit; it is a desire to attract the attention of the opposite sex.
‘Sin’ is saying or doing things to attract attention to self. It is a constant complaining or a desire to quit trying to do right. It is unnatural or abusive acts toward self and others. It is a deceitful or evasive spirit that seeks to create false impressions.
‘Sin’ is to pick flaws and criticize when set aside unnoticed. It is lustful, wandering eyes. It is a shirking from duty and reproach. It is a tendency to retaliate when crossed. It is permitting things in your own life that you would not permit in your ideal type of Christian. It is an unclean stinginess in thought or desire. It is being a joker or a jester who is light or vain in manner of life or conversation.
‘Sin’ is being unwilling to help others unless personal gain or advantage is involved. It is partiality in dealing with certain persons, classes, or denominations. It is always thinking about what might have been if things had not happened the way they had. It is being unthankful and unappreciative for one’s lot in life. It is living in constant fear of failure and taking a condescending attitude toward those that do fail.
‘Sin’ is taking an inferior attitude toward those of authority and wealth; it is putting on a false or exaggerated humility. It is imagining how well others are speaking of you. It is straining at the truth. It is taking an “I don’t care” attitude toward being caught in sin or toward shirking responsibilities.
All of these points can be well supported with sufficient Scripture, but that would require a book as opposed to a mini-thesis. The Christian tendency is to accuse celebrities and power brokers, but all of these sins can be committed by a “doubly-separated,” law-abiding Christian who doesn’t have a TV, doesn’t smoke or drink, doesn’t attend movies, doesn’t use drugs, and doesn’t curse or lie. The fact that he goes to church, pays his debts, is true to his wife, and does not support liberal, modernist, or neo-orthodox positions or doctrines has no effect on these sins.
‘Sin’ really does exist, according to Dr. Karl Menninger. The famous psychiatrist was distressed that modern society tried to figure out its problems and talk about morality without ever mentioning the word ‘sin.’ He was convinced that the only way to raise the moral tone of present day civilization and deal with the depression and worries that plague clergy, psychiatrists and ordinary folk is to revive an understanding of what ‘sin’ is.
In a prayer in the U.S. Senate, former Chaplain Peter Marshall said: “Our Father, we are beginning to understand at last that the things that are wrong with our world are the sum total of all the things that are wrong with us as individuals.” Would that prayer be well received in the Senate today, or would they continue to justify themselves as the lawyer who tempted Jesus did? (Luke 10:25-29)