People magazine once did a part-serious, part-tongue-in-cheek survey of its readers on the subject of sin. The results were published as a “Sindex,” with each sin rated by a sin coefficient. The outcome was both amusing and instructive.
Sins like murder, child abuse, and spying against one’s country were rated the worst sins in ascending order, with smoking, swearing, and illegal videotaping far down the list. Parking in a handicapped spot was rated surprising high, whereas unmarried live-togethers got off lightly. Cutting in front of someone in line was deemed worse than divorce. The survey concluded, “Overall, readers said they commit about 4.64 sins a month.”
I wonder what kind of “sindex” we would come up with at Shelby Crossings if we did our own survey. One thing is for sure, the readers of People were either not telling the truth about how much they sin (which, coincidentally enough, is a sin) or they are far holier than most of the rest of us, if they are averaging less than five sins a month. Or maybe, they just don’t understand what sin is, and by whose standards we measure it.
Admittedly, calculating our sin is not an easy task, and certainly it is hard to be precise, when you include attitudes as well as actions. Ultimately, we find in Scripture that sin is not just a few bad acts that we do, it is the attitude of self-centeredness, self-sufficiency and pride that is in rebellion against God.
As the writer Dorothy Sayers once said, “[Sin] is a deep interior dislocation at the very center of the human personality.” Or, as 20th century poet W.H. Auden wrote, sin is “the error bred in the bone.”
I had a seminary professor who used to say that we are all sinners, by nature and by choice. The apostle Paul said it this way: “All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23) And that sin nature and the choices we make inevitably get us all into trouble, in that they separate us from a holy God. The bad news is that “the wages of sin is death.” We all must pay for the sin that we commit, and the pay day comes in the form of spiritual death and eternal separation from God.
But the good news comes in the second half of that verse: “…but the free gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ.” Our only remedy for our sin is not to clean up our act but to accept the free gift of salvation that was purchased in our stead by Jesus Christ, who went to the cross to pay sin’s penalty on our behalf. But if we don’t accept the gift, we don’t get the pardon, and must live with the consequences of our sin.
My prayer for each of you who read this is that you have trusted in Christ’s redemptive work on your behalf, and received that wonderful gift of forgiveness for your sin. Whatever may be included on your “sindex,” and however many sins you may think you average each month, there’s no limit to the mercy and grace that God offers in Christ. “Thanks be to God for his unspeakable gift!” (2 Cor. 9:15).
I look forward to seeing you Sunday.