Tony Stewart, Ray Rice, Adrian Peterson, Greg Hardy, Jameis Winston and I have a lot in common and it’s not football or NASCAR, and it’s certainly not domestic violence. What we have in common is that they made bad choices and so have I. We all have, but is that an excuse for more bad behavior? The Scripture (Romans 3:23) says that we have all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. There are no exceptions, but I’m not in a confessing mood about my personal preferences and penances. Therefore, although we may not have committed the same shortcomings, we have all made mistakes. However, is knocking a woman out cold a mistake or allegedly committing a sexual assault, stealing crab legs, or yelling obscenities about women sophomoric hijinks? Will there be more facts added to the ongoing sagas about a racetrack death or child abuse by NFL players?
The answer is, “Probably,” and all of the above are more than “mistakes.” When I do something wrong, we need to call it what it is – “sin.” We need to recapture the appropriate word for our actions in our loosey-goosey society. We need to use the language of sin to reinforce that wrong is very, very wrong. A culture of permissiveness has encouraged too many people to shirk personal responsibility and want to let bygones-be-bygones, turning sin into miscues, mis-statements, and misogyny. South Carolina is the worst state in the US in terms of misogyny and violence against women and it is SIN! The two-word phrase “domestic violence” doesn’t even begin to capture the despicable nature of this epidemic.
Well, as United Methodists we don’t believe Jesus saved us to let us wallow in our same-old-same-old condition. We believe in sanctification – that God saves us through Jesus Christ to transform us for the transformation of the world. We believe it when Titus 2:11-12 says that God’s grace teaches us to say “No” to sin and empowers us to live new lives.
Differences in theology make a difference in whether or not we accept personal responsibility. If I think that it’s definite that I’m going to heaven no matter what I do then what I do doesn’t really matter in final analysis. If a person has a “low” view of sin they sometimes slip into a moral coma and think live and let live is an okay philosophy for everyone; i.e., “Don’t ask, don’t tell.” Then there are those who think if there’s no hell, there are no consequences. Just keep smiling away.
Let me give you an inadequate illustration of all three views. Maybe you heard the semi-humorous story about the difference in Baptist, Methodist, and Humanistic Positive Thinking attitudes about Judgment and Hell. Three men went out fishing. The first was a Baptist who believed, “Once saved; always saved.” The second was a Methodist who believed one could backslide and lose salvation, but there was little clarity about why and when that might happen. The third was a Positive Thinker who followed the doctrines of ministers like Robert Schuller and Joel Osteen.
A storm arose and the three men drowned. They were shocked to end up in the fires of hell. The Baptist cried out, “I thought I had it, but I didn’t. I thought I had it, but I didn’t.” The Methodist wailed, “I had it, but I lost it. I had it, but I lost it.” The Positive Thinker was curled up in a corner with his hands over his eyes, chanting, “It’s not hot, and I’m not here! It’s not hot, and I’m not here!”
But we are here, and it’s not funny. Baptist “What’s-In-It-For-Me” indifference, Methodist over-emphasis of grace over sin, and Positive Thinking’s prosperity theology makes it difficult for us to counter-attack our primary culprit to holy living: Sin. Sure, I know that all Baptists, Methodists, and Mega-church Perpetual Smilers aren’t the same and simplistic labeling probably isn’t helpful and I apologize, but I sincerely hope that all of us who call ourselves “Christian” will get our acts together and fight back against sin. We have let it go on for one reason or another for too long and it’s winning.
We all need Jesus to save us and no one sin is worse than another from God’s perspective, but we need to stand up today for respect, love, covenantal faithfulness, and common decency before it becomes utterly uncommon. If we don’t do something then we have failed all of our wives, women, daughters, sisters, mothers, and sons. The violence needs to stop NOW!