My friend and preaching colleague, Wilson Adams called it “Symptomatology.” I thought he made it up. But it’s a real word. A medical word. But Wilson defined it as “treating symptoms instead of the real problem.”
“Truth is,” Wilson wrote in a recent facebook post, “we are becoming quite numb to school, church, and public killings. Immersed in a culture of violence, we are witnessing a lost generation without conscience moorings.”
“Why?” He asks.
“Once again, we rush to treat the symptoms. Guns are the problem. Video games are the problem. Schools are the problem. Mental illness is the problem. As a result, we label, over-simplify, and go searching for band-aids.”
“There is an underlying cause behind the symptoms.” Wilson opines. “Lose respect for God and you lose your conscience. Lose your conscience and you lose your compass. Lose your compass and you lose your way. Lose your way and you lose your reason to live -or for anyone else to live.”
I thought of this post as I was reading Romans 3 this morning. What we’re seeing in our society today are the symptoms of sin. Sin is the real problem. But no one will admit it.
In the first three chapters of Romans, Paul addresses the problem of sin. In chapter one he says the Gentile world had failed “to retain God in their knowledge.” At one time, “they knew God, but did not glorify Him as God.” As a result, they sunk into moral depravity. Their sins are graphically described. Their thoughts had become foolish. Their lives futile. And their future bleak. That what sins does.
However, before the Jewish reader could gloat of their superiority, Paul says you are no better. In chapter two, “Therefore you have no excuse, O man, every one of you who judges. For in passing judgment on another you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, practice the very same things.” Ouch!
Just a cursory reading of the Old Testament verifies Paul’s point. Sexual immorality. Idolatry. Injustice. And disrespect for God’s Word. These were problems the prophets presented to a sinful nation. When they failed to repent, God brought upon them the captivity of the Assyrians and Babylonians.
So, in chapter three, Paul concluded that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”
Sin. That’s the real problem our world faces today. It hasn’t changed in 6,000 years.
In his classic book, psychiatrist Dr. Karl Menninger raises the question, “Whatever became of sin?” In it he makes this bold assertion, “I believe there is ‘sin’ expressed in ways which cannot be subsumed under verbal artifacts such as crime, disease, delinquency, deviancy. There is immorality; there is unethical behavior; there is wrongdoing. And…there is usefulness in retaining this concept and indeed the word, SIN.”
Sin is unrighteousness. The moral violation of the Word and will of God (1 Jn 5:7). It’s despicable, depraved, and disgraceful consequences are described in Romans 1:19-32.
Sin is a transgression of God’s law (I Jn. 3:5). While governments try to legislate acceptable behavior by enacting more laws, they forget that God’s law is supreme and takes precedence over human legislation.
Sin is deceitful. Sin appears to be something that it isn’t. It appears to be good, when it’s bad. It claims to satisfy, when it just leaves you hungry. It pretends to be the answer, when it’s really the problem. A lie becomes “I misspoke.” Drunkenness is a disease. Homosexuality is an alternative lifestyle.
My friend Dee Bowman expressed it this way. “People do deeds in the dark and disguise the disgust of it by indirect light, soft music and acts in the shadows. They call it entertainment.” God calls it sin.
While we use words to soften sin like shortcoming, blunder, mistake, or indiscretion, the Bible bluntly calls it iniquity, an abomination, and ungodliness.
Sin is serious. It soils the soul. It scars the conscience. It separates us from God (Isa 29:1-2).
Furthermore, it’s important to realize we all sin. Let us not be guilty of a moral superiority and failing to admit our sins. God calls on us to confess, repent and turn from our sins.
Finally, rather than to “curse the darkness.” Let’s be salt and light in this old sinful world. Instead of contributing to the problem. Let’s point people to the answer–Jesus Christ.
–Ken Weliever, The Preacherman