The Maturation of Sin

Sin doesn’t lie dormant. Ever. Whether in an individual or a society, sin is always fighting to grow like an aggressive, matastasizing cancer. Given the right environment it will grow to overtake the thinking and actions of people, completely consuming their individual and collective lives until there is nothing left. Paul describes this process in Romans 1.

The process begins with worshiping the creature over the eternally blessed Creator. Man rebels against the word of God, refusing to have God define who he is, what he is to believe about God, and how he is to relate to the world around him. Instead, he believes a lie. In man’s stubborn resistance to God’s word, God gives them over to “dishonor their bodies among themselves.” Generally, the dishonoring of the body is not treating the body with the dignity and respect that God bestowed upon it in his creation of us in his image. Whenever our bodies are used for that for which God did not create them, we are dishonoring our bodies. Paul is, most likely, speaking here about sexual immorality. He relates honoring the body and sexual purity speaking to the Thessalonians (1Thess 4.3-4). At this point, the sin is a distortion of the male + female relationship.

As idolatrous man gives himself over to idolatry, he is given over by God to dishonoring his body in male-female sexual relationships. As this becomes the normal course of life, God eventually gives man over to “dishonorable passions.” These dishonorable passions are same-sex sexual passions; women exchanging the Creator’s design for sexual relations in order to be with women, and men inflamed in their passions toward one another doing that which is shameful with other men. These are unions that are fruitless by design. They are unions of death; death to individuals and death to society.

The original design for man as image of God–male + female in covenant union–was to be “fruitful and multiply.” Paul’s tracing of sin and its effects reveals how sin destroys us in our fundamental identity as “man.” Lust has conceived and given birth to sin. Now sin, when it is finished, gives birth to death. The slope of sin leads man to a rejection of his fundamental identity as the image of God. When this happens, no sin is unthinkable. In fact, sin begins to make sense and is applauded (Rom 1.32). There is delight in death.

While we can see this progression working out in society around us, we too need to be concerned about the operation of sin in our own lives, our families, and our church. Sin is not something that is “out there somewhere.” Sin is in each of us. Though it is in remission for those in Christ, it is fighting to overtake us. We have a responsibility not to let it grow.

It can begin with small compromises; little idolatries, we might think. Sin then gains a foothold in our thinking, our passions, and in our habits. Before long we are justifying our sin because it makes sense to us even though the witness of Scripture and our brothers and sisters are telling us just the opposite.

How do we prevent this? We must be humbly submissive to the Scriptures themselves and to those who apply them to us. Pride is a good environment for sin to grow. We must be willing to listen to those who love us, who instruct us that we are going the wrong way. We must take the sin seriously, confess it, and move toward repentance, adjusting our thinking and our actions to line up with what God says. When we respond this way to sin, it is held at bay. On the flip side, we must be pursuing all that is good, righteous, and holy. As we do this, we don’t leave time or space for sin grow.

This is a fight that we will continue to have as long as we live. Sin will not rest. So, we must be ever vigilant and ready to deal with it ruthlessly.