Sin. Who wants to talk about sin? Nobody. Let's talk about joy! Let's talk about happiness! Let's talk about politics or religion - anything but sin.
Is there a problem with not talking about sin? I believe there is. Sin exists. Just like evil exists. If we don't thoughtfully consider sin, someone else will tell us what to think and do about it.
Sin in the Bible is described as "missing the mark" or "rebellion" or "trespass." In the Bible, sin describes not simply people who make mistakes but people who miss God's mark, are in rebellion against God or who are trespassing God's boundaries.
Cornelius Plantinga Jr. describes sin as the vandalism of shalom. That means the destruction of the way the world is supposed to be. The Hebrew word shalom means completeness, soundness and well-being, and when shalom is absent the world is not as it should be.
Is that a problem, or rather, shouldn't we be used to that by now? I guess it depends on what kind of world you want. I am willing to look at the world and find sin and call it sin. We are a fallen race. Eugene Peterson warns preachers not to expect too much from their flock because they are sinners. I believe him! They are sinners - along with their pastor! When we talk about sin we don't mean, "I admit I made a mistake." Sin kills and maims. The history of the world details the barbarity of men and women - ethnic cleansing, war, rape and murder. But also jealousy, envy, prejudice and abuse.
We are less than we should be because of the sins committed against us and ours. Others around us are less than they should be because of the sins we have committed against them and theirs. Don't you want it to be different? Wouldn't you want the world to be different, better? The Bible doesn't explain sin, but gives us an answer to it. I may not understand sin, but I can do something about it. The Bible says the world will one day be the way it is supposed to be and we can have a part in that now.
When we invite Jesus to be our boss we stop listening to our own advice, gain a little humility and start listening for the Spirit's guidance through other Christians, the Bible and his quiet whispers. We become a part of a community of faith and start looking for people from whom we can learn maturity as it is modeled in life. We find people we can confess our sins to and people who will love us enough to "speak the truth in love." As God reveals our sins to us, we begin to pray for guidance to deal with them. As we see things we have done wrong we begin to say, "I'm sorry," and ask for forgiveness. As we continue to give ourselves to God, he molds us and makes us more like his son. We begin to change. We experience and spread shalom - "thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth...."
John Barnes is the senior pastor of Thomson First United Methodist Church.