The word “sin” has fallen out of favor. We talk about struggles, brokenness, or unwanted behaviors (words we use all the time at Regen), but acknowledging sin actually opens us to divine mercy in a different, much-needed, way.
I think most of us have a love-hate relationship with mercy.
We love mercy because we need it, and we hate mercy for the same reason.
The fact that God is merciful is integral to Christianity. It’s at the heart of the incarnation and crucifixion. While lost in our sin and sickness, God came to us in Christ, befriended us, healed us, and forgave us the wrongs we’ve done. Thank God for His mercy!
At the same time, at the heart of Christianity is the reality that on our own, we are not God’s friends, we’re rebellious, adulterous, idolatrous, and hopelessly self-centered. For many reasons, this is hard to accept and harder to admit.
It is one thing to acknowledge that we all make mistakes, have lapses in judgment, or engage in misguided attempts to resolve our internal psychological angst stemming from childhood wounds. It is another thing to face our problem with sins—those things we have done and left undone that are in fact evil.
Acknowledging we do evil things means three things for us.
First, it strikes at our sense of identity. If I make a mistake, I’m like everyone else. If I do evil, who am I like then?
Second, it sets our actions in relation to God. Struggles can remain personal—they’re about me wanting to be more the person I want to be. But to sin means I’ve violated a boundary of Someone else’s making.
Third, while we may learn from our mistakes and grow through trials, sins carry a force that exceeds my ability to resolve. The enemy may paint a caricature of God’s commands as arbitrary, uptight rules enforced by a stodgy old man making too big a thing of the rules when people are just trying to relax and have a good time. But Scripture reveals sin to be serious, carrying death like a disease and infecting the earth (see Romans 5:12). God is not a killjoy. Sin is the literal killer of joy.
With all this said, the point of this post is not to get us overly focused on sin, but rather to increase our hunger for mercy.
God cares about the intensity of your temptations, your feelings of isolation, the reality that you didn’t choose these attractions, your childhood wounds and trauma, the plain truth that others have it easier than you in some ways, and even about your stressful day. He cares more than you know. Perhaps right now, He just wants to hold and comfort you.
But if you never sense God convicting you of sin, the something is wrong. And if you say you love others but are unwilling to talk about sin (not all the time!), then you may be depriving them of what they most need. When we fail to acknowledge our sin, we turn away from the mercy we need that He desires to give.
It might not be fashionable to talk about sin these days, but it is lifesaving to do so.
Before you go, one thing more.
The mercy God gives cost Him. The old sacrificial system was no sweat off His back. As He says in the psalms: every animal on a thousand hills is his (Psalm 50:10-12). He made them and He can make more. But the crucifixion is different. God the Son became embodied, suffered, and died. The cost of the mercy He has for you was His betrayal, abandonment, rejection, mocking, spitting, brutality, torture, nakedness, humiliation, shame, and death.
“This is my body, given for you” aren’t just symbol or metaphor. Jesus was speaking of the life-saving cure we need.
Andrew Comiskey once wrote that God’s mercy, like water, flows to the lowest place.
This Lent, let’s acknowledge our sin and call it what it is so that God’s mercy can flow. And as we walk with others in bondage to sin, let’s have empathy, kindness, and compassion for their wounds and hurts, but for mercy’s sake, let’s not forget about sin.
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Make sure to check out the latest podcast of Becoming Whole here – The Life in Confession