sin and self-image

Here’s the latest devotional I worked up for Our Daily Journey, which is Radio Bible Class’s hipper version of Our Daily Bread.  It seems relevant to our recent discussion, so I post it here for any constructive and respectful feedback.

read > 2 Samuel 16:5-14

“Why should this dead dog curse my lord the king?” Abishai son of Zeruiah demanded.  “Let me go over and cut off his head!”  “No!” the king said.

A youth pastor doesn’t tell his teenagers that they are sinners because he doesn’t want to leave the impression that they “suck.”  A popular author denies that infants are born with a sin nature because that would mean that “babies suck.”  And a friend who confessed to an especially offensive sin said “I guess this means I suck.”

Besides their juvenile descriptions of sin, notice that each person confuses sin with self-worth.  They assume that sin means they no longer matter, when in fact their sin only matters if they do.  Sin is rebellion, and rebellion is only a problem when the rebel carries some weight.  If we really “sucked” our sin wouldn’t count for much.

When King David was fleeing Jerusalem he met Shimei, an enraged loner from Saul’s dethroned family who hurled stones and insults at the king’s entourage.  David’s men wanted to crush Shimei, but David told them to leave him alone, in part because Shimei was not a threat.  Far different was David’s response to Absalom’s army.  He knew that these men could destroy him and his kingdom, and so David threw all of his weapons at them in the fight of his life.

God isn’t threatened by our rebellion, but the cross informs us that he takes us and our sin seriously.  If we “sucked” would God have given his life to save us?  The cost of our salvation reminds us that we and our sin matter to God.  If we minimize our sin we also minimize ourselves and the salvation which rescues us.

The surest way to tell someone they “suck” is to ignore their sin.  Treat them like a Shimei whose rebellion is of no account.  If you want them to know they matter, you’re going to have to talk about sin.

6 Comments

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  1. I like it. Do you have any room to share examples of how to discuss one’s sin in a firm but loving way?

    On a related note, a friend once made me laugh by saying (w/irony), “My spiritual gift is Rebuke.”

  2. Your first sentence uses ‘doesn’t’ twice. Maybe ‘avoids telling’ or ‘neglects to tell’ would break it up a bit. Petty, but it’s what stood out to me. Otherwise it doesn’t suck.

  3. Adam:

    I reached my 300 word limit, but that would make a good discussion question.

    Todd:

    Thanks for that catch. I want something stronger than avoids or neglects, but I see your point. I’ll see what I can do. Did you comment because you wanted a chance to say “suck”?🙂

  4. I was thinking that the reverse of suck is (too coarse), and I don’t want to overstress the bounds of polite conversation.
    I tried to think of another word for suck, my kids use inhale when parents are around.
    You’ve definitely caught the parlance of the 12 to 20 crowd.

  5. Mike:

    Maybe “A youth pastor refuses to tell…” or even, “A youth pastor doesn’t tell … because he’s afraid to leave the impression….” Just some thoughts. Feel free to ignore them as usual.

  6. I believe it was Chesterton who railed against the idea of self-esteem.

    I tend to look at in this way; man attempts to justify his sin, not so much because he enjoys it (though this can sometimes be a part of it), but because he hate how it makes him feel. The original sin of Adam and Eve was narcissism; it was the irrational desire to place themselves at the center of the universe and supplant the position of God within their lives. At the root of all sin, we have this same desire. Of course, a bad self-image is at odds with our narcissistic tendencies, so we gloss over our sin in order to preserve our self-ascribed sainthood.

    The best way to explain a person’s sin is probably in light of being made in the image of God. We can explain that by being in the image of God, we are significant creatures of intrinsic value, thus we cannot add or detract from our value as human beings. No matter what, we matter. At the same time, sin blocks this image from being seen by others and even we can be blinded to it. When we lose sight of the fact that we are in the image of God, depression and despair set in because we have lost touch with who we are.

    You’re right in pointing out that because we matter, sin is important. If we didn’t matter, sin wouldn’t be a big deal. But we are made in the image of God and therefore we matter, which is why sin is so serious.

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