[Dr. Mike Wittmer, a friend and former professor, has posted a devotional that I thought makes two profound statements: one about the ugly reality and sin, and the other about the value even sinful human beings have in the eyes of God. I encourage you to visit his blog]. 3/4/2010 Update: A friend e-mailed me asking if I was uncomfortable with Wittmer's language (the one word that's repeated over and over). I admit there is a bit of crudity here, and this is a word that my own children would be grounded for saying. I have the advantage of knowing Mike personally (a godly man who actively strives to live for God's glory), which is perhaps why I zoomed over that word without much notice. Of course, I realize even the Apostle Paul used crude language at times (much cruder, in fact). Still, don't let this one word keep you from missing the deeper theological gem to be found in the article.
"Why should this dead dog curse my lord the king?” Abishai son of Zeruiah demanded. “Let me go over and cut off his head!” “No!” the king said. 2 Samuel 16:5-14
A youth pastor doesn’t tell his teenagers that they are sinners because he doesn’t want to leave the impression that they “suck.” A popular author denies that infants are born with a sin nature because that would mean that “babies suck.” And a friend who confessed to an especially offensive sin said “I guess this means I suck.”
Besides their juvenile descriptions of sin, notice that each person confuses sin with self-worth. They assume that sin means they no longer matter, when in fact their sin only matters if they do. Sin is rebellion, and rebellion is only a problem when the rebel carries some weight. If we really “sucked” our sin wouldn’t count for much.
When King David was fleeing Jerusalem he met Shimei, an enraged loner from Saul’s dethroned family who hurled stones and insults at the king’s entourage. David’s men wanted to crush Shimei, but David told them to leave him alone, in part because Shimei was not a threat. Far different was David’s response to Absalom’s army. He knew that these men could destroy him and his kingdom, and so David threw all of his weapons at them in the fight of his life.
God isn’t threatened by our rebellion, but the cross informs us that he takes us and our sin seriously. If we “sucked” would God have given his life to save us? The cost of our salvation reminds us that we and our sin matter to God. If we minimize our sin we also minimize ourselves and the salvation which rescues us.
The surest way to tell someone they “suck” is to ignore their sin. Treat them like a Shimei whose rebellion is of no account. If you want them to know they matter, you’re going to have to talk about sin.