How Sinful Is Sin?
The Inadequacy of Modern Man’s View of Sin
Eddie, 39, wants compassion from the general public. He fears that the world judges him and his type, and it is high time that better understanding was directed towards him. He is concerned at the caricature that often surrounds people like him, and is pressing for greater public engagement with the issues that he faces. Prejudice has been perpetuated for too long, and it is high time that his side of the story was told. The UK’s Channel 4, scenting sensation and potential ratings from his predicament, are happy to give him air time and to allow him to describe his experiences and to declare his innate virtue. Eddie is a paedophile.
The foregoing has all the makings of an April Fool’s Day leader in a local paper, but The Paedophile Next Door (first broadcast on 25th November 2014) is deadly serious programming, seeking to break the ‘taboo’ that often surrounds the aberrant behaviour it describes. Psychologists and social commentators have been marshalled to offer their opinions, and a real life meeting between Eddie and a man who has been the victim of child abuse from a teacher in the past is arranged. Mutual understanding and public conversation are the order of the day, as one of the 21st century’s most uncomfortable social behaviours is analysed. According to the programme, Eddie’s ‘virtue’ is that while he has the desires of a paedophile he does not act on them.
Academic Sarah Goode observes that until recently all paedophiles have wrongly been labelled as monsters, and that this does little to address the issue, or deter offending. Instead she urges a different approach stating that
if we change [the] message and if we say to this person OK you are a paedophile but you are also a moral person who can make moral choices and you can choose never to break the law, never to offend, you can choose to keep children safe.1
As shocking and repulsive as all of this may sound, we should not be surprised that the process of ‘normalisation’ has begun in earnest on this repulsive behaviour. Modern man in the absence of God can describe sin, can portray sin, and can even legislate for or against it, but he can never fully explain or address it. Eddie’s predicament and demand for understanding springs from a faulty view of self, sin and society and speaks of the hopelessness of a world which can psychologise its decay but cannot redeem it. Man is an animal, driven by animal passions, the product of his DNA, the sad sum of his parts, tossed and trammelled by the arrangement of his chromosomes. If fault is to be found it is located in factors beyond his control and culpability, he is both perpetrator and victim at once, an individual to be pitied and approached with pathos, regardless of the corrosive impulses which command his thinking and desires.
Only by bringing the spotlight of Scripture to bear on the heart can we make sense of this behaviour, along with every other sin in humanity’s vast repertoire of reprobation. The gospel does not dress sin respectably, but addresses it redemptively; it does not excuse the conscience but accuses it; it does not palliate our guilt but aggravates it by showing that not merely our actions but our minds, our motives, our whole humanity lies waste and wanton without God’s grace and mercy. The gospel won’t wear it that sin is only found in what we do but demands that we face sin as what we are in the eyes of a holy God. Our wrong behaviours, desires and affections betray the fact that sin is the operating system of our lives, the driving force behind who we are and how we act. No programme and no college professor can properly diagnose or treat the human heart in the absence of God and the gospel.
What relief the gospel of Jesus brings to the sinner! It tells us to stop reasoning with sin, and to seek redemption for our sin. It tells us that we are more sinful than our wildest imagination, but that God has made a way for us to be liberated from the tyranny of our own depravity and the lies of Satan. The Jesus who demands not just abstinence from adulterous actions but adulterous thoughts, the Jesus who demands a hand-severing, eye-plucking, zero tolerance approach to sin, is the very One who has opened a way for us to know freedom and forgiveness. The gospel of Christ allows us to be honest with ourselves, to weep hot tears of repentance over our condition, and invites us to find true, deep, effective cleansing through his finished work.
The best that the world can offer is high-rise, high-rent whited sepulchres. The world can only hope to bend the law and outlook of society downwards, normalising the abhorrent, and excusing the inexcusable. In Scripture God’s law stands unshakeable, no matter how broken it is by men and women. But our glory and joy is that God is just, and the justifier of those who come to him through Christ Jesus. How our world needs this message, and how we need to make it known!
- This quotation and all information pertaining to the documentary are from the Daily Telegraph article, ‘Virtuous paedophile outs himself on camera’.
Andrew Roycroft is pastor of Millisle Baptist Church in County Down, Northern Ireland.
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