In my Homiletics class this semester we are preaching from the Book of Revelation. Today was a preaching day, in which several of my classmates orated their sermons to the rest of us. One of them in particular gave me some clarity on an issue I've been struggling with lately having to do with the relevance of preaching on sin.
Basically, my struggle has been with the judgmentalism I have perceived in Christianity. MANY times I have needed grace, and many times I have needed time to overcome certain sins in my life. I think I owe others the same grace. And often, I have been condemned and judged by well-meaning Christians for things the Bible does not label as sin; basically, people demand that I live by their personal convictions. And of course, being the stubborn girl I am, I refuse to give in to their demands.
Not only this, but I see in Scripture an emphasis on loving God and one's neighbors. I think many/most sins are rooted in the fact that they hurt God or other people. For example, for the April A to Z Blogging Challenge I plan to participate in this year, I plan to do some posts on the Seven Deadly Sins of (alphabetically listed): avarice (greed), envy, gluttony, lust, pride, sloth (laziness), and wrath (anger). When I see these sins, I see the harmful consequences they have on relationships and/or community living. Thus, again, the point is on loving others, and not so much on perfectly following a list of rules.
But one of the sermons today on the letter in Revelation 2:18-29 to the Church at Thyatira gave me a better way of looking at this issue. First, Jesus commends their good deeds, which we might assume include acts of compassion toward others (verse 19). Next, He finds fault with their toleration of sin, calls for repentance, and promises judgment for it if there is no repentance (verses 20-23). Then He urges the faithful readers to continue with the works that are good, with the promise of reward for doing so (verse 25-28). Clearly, good works are good, but are not enough; sin will preempt any good works one does for the sake of Christ. If a person does good and also does sin, and both are known, which will be remembered?
So, the moral of this story is: it is still relevant to encourage peope to turn away (repent) from sin. My clarity on this issue is this: it is just as important to make sure NOT to label things as "sin" that God does not. I think in further clarifying this issue, it will be important to establish guidelines for determining what is definitely sin, and thus, what calls for repentance.