In spite of all this you say, ‘I am innocent; He is not angry with me.’ But I will pass judgment on you because you say, ‘I have not sinned’~ Jeremiah 2:34-36 NIV
The world we live in is a flaming-hot-dumpster-fire of a mess right now.
Church attendance is down, biblical ignorance is up and Christian kids are leaving the faith quicker than rats abandoning a sinking ship. Thanks to immorality and bad behavior in church leadership Christians have completely lost their moral authority in the culture and we will not be getting it back anytime soon. Those are just the problems inside the church.
The problems outside the church are bigger, messier and even trickier to solve.
Gender confusion is officially the new normal. Being born with a penis or a vagina is no longer something to be evaluated when a person is labeled either male or female (Genesis 1:27). Mental health professionals and many educators now claim normal masculinity is somehow toxic. Drug use has become appallingly common among every age group and social demographic. Divorce has become so routine social commenters have coined the term “starter marriage”. It is now considered an act of hate speech to suggest that anything some people find pleasurable is somehow morally wrong.
I do not pretend that I know everything there is to know about everything. Most of the time I am painfully aware of the fact that I really don’t know what I don’t know about most stuff. However, there is one thing I do know for absolute certain. There is simply no way we will get out of the mess we’re in until the church takes the lead and gets back into the business of calling sin sin.
We have developed a habit in the church of reframing sin in new (and far less offensive) terms. This issue was brought to my attention recently when I was asked to review a Bible study/curriculum intended to support, educate and guide women whose husbands have been routinely sexually immoral (adultery, pornography, homosexuality, etc.). All the women going through the curriculum are married to men who are professing Christians also attending study/support group.
The authors of the curriculum clearly have good intentions. It’s obvious they want to help women who are suffering through no fault of their own. Good intentions notwithstanding, the execution of the program fails epically short. This is mostly due to the language the writers elected to use. Rather than labeling the men who have willfully chosen to disobey God and break their marriage vows repeatedly with terms like ne’er-do-wells, reprobates or adulterers (Hebrews 13:5, Hebrews 12:16, 1st Corinthians 6:18-20). The men are simply referred to by the sanitary term of “sex addicts”. If the men begin sinning after a period of repentance their transgressions are called a “relapse”.
The women are instructed to be endlessly patient with their straying husbands and to do everything within their power to keep their marriages intact. Not once are the women coached to treat their stubbornly unrepentant husbands like unbelievers or to go to the elders of their Church and ask for church discipline to be applied to the cheaters (1st Timothy 1:20, 1st Corinthians 5:5). Instead the women were encouraged to “make a safety plan” in the event of a “relapse”. None of examples of the safety plans included putting the guy out on the street until he gets his act together and repents permanently (Exodus 20:14, Proverbs 6:32, Matthew 5:27-28, 1st Corinthians 5:9-11).
Insert eye roll here.
It’s simply a fact that most of the men we refer to as “sex addicts” have experienced serious childhood trauma. The writers of the curriculum do an excellent job of explaining the roots of addiction and how childhood trauma can and does create addictive tendencies in some people. That being said, there was precious little said about personal holiness, taking personal responsibility for sin, the need for ongoing repentance or the role obedience to the Holy Spirit plays in living a life of holiness. Nor was there much said about God’s ability to permanently transform the heart and behavior of a sinful human being.
Sadly, this is not the only example of reframing sinful behavior in more positive terms. Even in the church we call drug use a disease and drunkenness alcoholism. Even serious sins like adultery and theft have been renamed as “mistakes” or “moral failures” (Exodus 20:14-15). Language really does matter. And the language Christians are choosing to use is at least part of the reason many Christians are not taking personal responsibility for their sin.
Here’s the thing:
Sex addiction sounds like a virus someone caught due to no fault of their own while “sexual immorality” sounds like the terrible CHOICE it actually is. Addiction sounds like something outside of our control while “drunkenness” and “drug user” sound like the choices they are. No one can fix a problem they refuse to name or be honest about. Men who cheat on their wives are not sex addicts. They are people who have made the conscious choice to let their sin nature run wild. God will judge their choices if they refuse to repent (Hebrews 10:30, 1st Corinthians 6:9-10).
I am not proposing Christians attack unbelievers with words like “sinner” or “reprobate” (1st Corinthians 5:12). What unsaved people choose to do is between them and God. I am proposing we intentionally change the language we use inside the church to better reflect what’s really going on when a person cheats on their spouse or jumps headlong into drug use or excessive drinking. The church does no one any favors by calling sin anything but sin (Ephesians 4:15-16).