Sin is a word that comes with heaps of baggage, often meaning that even as Christians we don’t often talk about it. But in Paul’s letter to the church in Colossae he says ‘put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature’ (Colossians 3:5). Death’s also something we don’t talk about often, and yet here we’re being told here to bring death to our earthly, i.e. sinful, behaviour. We’re to terminate, to go on an all-out killing spree, against sin’s presence in our lives.
Now, big caveat: it’s the gospel that saves us, and Paul’s clear about that. It is Jesus’ death that reconciles us back to God. Once we were alienated from him because of our evil behaviour, but now we are reconciled to Him through the cross (Col 1:21-22). The Christian has put their trust in Christ to be rescued from the dominion of darkness and transferred to the kingdom of the Son (1:13). It is Jesus’ death that has made us peace with God (1:20). Just to spell it out: your day-to-day battle against sinful behaviour isn’t what makes you friends with God.
Yet Paul says that Christians, as those who have been effectively raised up to new life with Christ, are to have a new attitude to sinful patterns of behaviour and thought. And I reckon one of the biggest threats to whether we actually do this is the temptation to minimize sin. I saw this post by Timmy Brister a while ago, and thought its worth quoting in full below; I recognise lots of what he describes in myself. He reflects on six ways in which we may be individually tempted to minimize sin. Of course the more we do this as individuals, the more we’ll together breed churches where sin is played down, rather than being attacked:
I find it difficult to receive feedback about weaknesses or sin. When confronted, my tendency is to explain things away, talk about my successes, or to justify my decisions. As a result, I rarely have conversations about difficult things in my life.
I strive to keep up appearances, maintain a respectable image. My behavior, to some degree, is driven by what I think others think of me. I also do not like to think reflectively about my life. As a result, not very many people know the real me (I may not even know the real me).
I tend to conceal as much as I can about my life, especially the “bad stuff”. This is different than pretending in that pretending is about impressing. Hiding is more about shame. I don’t think people will accept the real me.
I am quick to blame others for sin or circumstances. I have a difficult time “owning” my contributions to sin or conflict. There is an element of pride that assumes it’s not my fault AND/OR an element of fear of rejection if it is my fault.
I tend to downplay sin or circumstances in my life, as if they are “normal” or “not that bad. As a result, things often don’t get the attention they deserve, and have a way of mounting up to the point of being overwhelming.
I tend to think (and talk) more highly of myself than I ought to. I make things (good and bad) out to be much bigger than they are (usually to get attention). As a result, things often get more attention than they deserve, and have a way of making me stressed or anxious.
This excerpt is taken from the excellent study called The Gospel-Centered Life. Week one, in which this excerpt is derived, can be downloaded for free.’
Spot these in your life? What do you think?