“None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.” Romans 3:10-12
As followers of Christ, we may have many questions when we see suffering and pain in any form, especially the seemingly senseless tragic kind. But, we know the answer to the “why” question. The answer is sin and evil, and it is far-reaching and pervasive.
It began in a garden, with one decision, one act of pride: respect for authority replaced by rebellion; blessing by punishment; a clear conscience by guilt and shame; viewing God as a friend to walk with replaced with viewing Him as an enemy to hide from and fear; trust with cynicism; love with indifference and hatred; intimacy with God with separation from God; Freedom to obey God with enslavement to sin.
From that day forward, pride has branched out to a vineyard of evil. C.S. Lewis: “From the moment a creature becomes aware of God as God and of itself as self, the terrible alternative of choosing God or self for the center is opened to it. This sin is committed daily by young children and ignorant peasants as well as by sophisticated persons, by solitaries no less than by those who live in society: it is the fall in every individual life, and in each day of each individual life, the basic sin behind all particular sins: a this very moment you and I are either committing it, or about to commit it, or repenting it.”
Mark Driscoll has commented that sin is rebellion, folly, self-abuse, madness, treason, death, hatred. It is a relational breach, separating us from God. It is a social matter, destroying peace among us (leading to murder, drunkenness, abuse, and other damage). It is a covenantal rebellion against God and His authority. It is a legal transgression that results in guilt and necessitates judgment. In the Old Testament, it resulted in ritual uncleanliness, pollution, and filth. It leads to physical and spiritual death.
Sin involves godlessness-ignoring God and acting as if He wasn’t there. It also involves idolatry, setting ourselves or something in God’s created order in the place of God, as the most important person or thing in our lives.
It includes breaking God’s laws, breaking just human laws, defying godly authority, such as parents or pastors, and violating one’s own authority, conscience and convictions.
Sin includes perversion – using good things for evil, and pollution – infecting good things with evil. There is moral evil, the result of choices that men make, and natural evil, hurricanes, floods, earthquakes, and droughts, caused by the fact that all creation has been distorted and damaged by sin. We are born with it, inheriting it from our father, Adam. We also make the conscious decision to do it every day. It totally infects us-every motive, word, deed, and thought is affected, stained, and marred by sin. All of our mind, will, emotions, heart, conscience, and physical body is affected by sin-it runs throughout our entire selves. We have no ability to do spiritual good by either our natures or our actions. We are completely, totally depraved.
And, we completely forget that. We think we’re all right, okay, not as bad as the next guy. We’ve become desensitized to our own unrighteousness. And, so it takes something as beyond the pale, something big-time, some “varsity” sin like crashing planes full of people into a building full of people, or shooting up a theater or a school full of kids, to shock us into remembering that, oh, yeah, this is bad. Really, really bad.
Geraldo commented on TV the other day that Christmas was a really bad time for tragedy to happen. While I would submit that any day is a horrible day for tragedy, Christmas is a perfect time to be reminded of the appalling, scandalous, outrageous depravity of the human heart, and the brilliant magnificence of our good and gracious, reconciling God to not leave it that way.