Thursday, March 03, 2005

Why I Try Not to Use the Word "Sin"

Not too long ago a new person at Cedarbrook wrote to us and said they probably weren't going to return often to Cedarbrook because they noticed that I purposefully used the word "mistakes" instead of the word "sin" in my sermon. I guess they saw that as a moral and theological compromise on my part. So, let me explain.

I often use synonyms or descriptive phrases for "sin" when I speak- for a very definite reason - the word "sin" carries all kinds of double meanings and baggage. I purposefully don't use it because I don't want someone assuming I mean "x" when I really mean "y". ( I do the same for other words like "Christian", "saved", sanctified, etc.)

For example, to many unchurched people (many whom attend Cedarbrook), "sin" implys that they are evil and therefore God doesn't like them. Sin is thought of in terms of "big" things like murder or adultery, etc. and not in terms of more hidden issues like greed or anger or envy.

Biblically, "sin" is falling short of God's glory - or perfection. That being true, every thing that I do is sin because I don't do anything perfectly. My understanding of sin is not exclusive (pointing the finger at bad people) but inclusive - meaning that I'm fully aware that we are all in the same boat and therefore need to work together to cling to Jesus for salvation.

If everyone understood sin like I do, I'd always use the word sin. But few do. Using the word "sin" brings more confusion and reinforces bad theology. So I rarely use it unless I've defined the word in context.

One thing very different about Cedarbrook, compared to other churches, is that we tailor everything (as much as possible) to be understood by unchurched, bibilically ignorant people. We don't "dumb things down" intellectually but we do try to use terms that everyone understands and can relate to. For some well churched people, it takes time getting used to this because they are more comfortable with a well established Christian vocabulary. But I'm very committed to speaking in a language that people can understand so they are drawn to God and do not prematurely reject him simply because they misunderstood a term used.

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