Wednesday, December 02, 2009

How do we talk about sin?

I've always thought that the best place to start in evangelism is wherever people find themselves. And by that I don't mean geographically, rather I mean spiritually, emotionally. I remember well the struggles I had personally with the methods that I was taught to take people through a gospel presentation. I remember being mildly castigated for not following the the proper order during one conversation but rather starting with the question I was being asked.

David Fitch has written an interesting post about sin, how we understand it and how our treatment of it impacts our evangelism. I thought his opening up of the basic understanding of sin that most evangelicals carry around with them is really helpful.

sin in the Bible is not only about transgression – (i.e. breaking the law), but also about missing the mark. Sin is not just about guilt but about the powers that enslave us. We therefore have to approach each person with the knowledge that sin will manifest itself in different ways. Our job is to listen and probe for the manifestations of lostness, emptiness, enslavement, and yes guilt, and be available to reflect with the person … always waiting patiently for the Spirit to reveal any sin, brokenness, hurt and/or enslavement that might be going on.

This seems helpful to me because, if the truth be told, most of the people with whom I might have a spiritual conversation know about breaking the law (most of them do it regularly when they drive) but little of the consequences. Therefore rules are to be broken and often there is no price to pay. But ask them about guilt, about loneliness through fractured relationships, about repeating patterns of behaviour that they just can't seem to break, and they will know exactly what you are talking about.

Now I know that there will be many a good evangelical who will throw their hands up in horror at the thought of not taking the earliest opportunity to point out the sinfulness in the human heart. In fact many would accuse me at this point of trying to remove sin from the equation altogether. But that's not true. Like Fitch, I'm wondering if the language we use and the concepts we carry make it harder to get the message across than it ought to be.

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