Sin. Evil. These words are not common anymore.
We tend to prefer more palatable alternatives like brokenness. Addictions. Mistakes. Errors. Regrets. Idolatry.
The numbing of our vocabulary around sin and evil has been accompanied by numbed attitudes.
As we have become less angry, less sad, less sensitive and less concerned about sin, so we have preferred to sanitise its image.
But scripture is so clear. To be gripped by the gravity of sin and evil is a non-negotiable hallmark of the touch of God on a person’s life.
There are no exceptions.
Isaiah’s encounter with God is a vivid example. Having received a revelation of God, he quickly received a revelation of himself. In fact, he suddenly (perhaps for the first time), had a realistic view of himself.
For a prophet to say “woe is me” is no small thing. “Woe” was his way of pronouncing God’s sentence of damnation. It was normally directed at others. To turn it on himself is nothing short of astonishing.
Why would he do that?
Because, having seen God, the scales of self-righteousness had fallen from his eyes. He saw sin, clearly, for the first time. “I am a man of unclean lips and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips.” He saw it in himself, and in his society.
It frightened him. It stunned him. It gripped him with grief and pain. He thought he would go to hell.
This response is not normal. People don’t turn on themselves easily.
But it is necessary evidence of the Holy Spirit’s activity. As Jesus said, to “convict of sin, righteousness and judgement.”
I say all of this for one reason: I fear we are becoming numb.
Many in the church claim conversion without ever having known this hallmark of God’s work, and we don’t seem too concerned about it.
The practice of ongoing repentance and confession is not a widespread spiritual discipline because we simply don’t feel our need of it.
Our love for God and our wonder at the cross of Christ is cold because we don’t know the size of His grace in light of the size of sin.
We prefer positive messages of grace to true messages of guilt, even though both are supremely important.
But there is something else, too.
It doesn’t only represent a problem with the way we view ourselves. It’s also a problem because of how it affects our attitude to our society.
Isaiah saw both – his own problem, but also the problem in his world.
People often ask me why I bother so much about moral issues like abortion, euthanasia, gender-bending ideology, religious freedoms.
From time to time it is suggested to me that we shouldn’t “impose” morality on others. I am told that we shouldn’t prevent people from having immoral laws if that’s what they want.
I believe that we say this in part because we have forgotten the darkness, depravity, and gravity of evil. We have lived in the comfort of a modern West, on borrowed Judeo-Christian morality for so long that we have no comprehension of such things.
Good laws restrain evil – that is God’s mandate to governments. Bad laws permit evil to flourish.
Do we know how serious that is?
There is no love of neighbour when we sit on the sidelines, allowing evil to flourish.
Let me illustrate.
Euthanasia – at its root, says that it’s ok for us to be complicit in the deliberate killing of a human being – is an evil idea. It matters not how carefully controlled it is, how strong the safeguards are, or how well-intentioned proponents feel. An evil idea brings a tide of darkness in its wake.
That’s why we heard news of a world-first in Belgium [in August 2018]. Three children were euthanised, aged 9, 11 and 17. Two of them simply because they had disabilities.
Or the multitude of cases where people have been killed for things like blindness, personality disorders, depression, a botched sex-change, alcoholism, loneliness… I could go on.
4.5% of all deaths in the Netherlands are by euthanasia.
More than half of those receiving euthanasia in Oregon report “being a burden to family and friends” as a reason for seeking death.
Meanwhile, I am getting reports from parents in Victoria whose children go to schools where gender and sexual ideology is ruining lives. Best friends are now lesbian couples, anxious kids are now gender dysphoric, as they are fed a steady diet of sexualised and radical queer theory.
Speak to Walt Heyer – one of the first gender reassignment patients in the world – and he will tell you, there’s no coming back for most who go down the pathway he trod. They suicide at more than 40 times the rate of the general population, and some 50% of his counselling patients report sexual abuse as a trigger for their initial dysphoria.
Cari is a young woman who reports, “I’m a 21-year-old woman with a scarred chest, a 5 o’clock shadow, and a broken voice. All because I couldn’t face the reality that I might be a girl.”
It is not possible to fully “de-transition.” Once you go all the way, the physical scars are for life. Not to mention the emotional scars that covered over from the get-go.
Here is the cost of evil. The “sins of the fathers visited on the children.”
I have touched just two issues, yet the tide of darkness they could represent is harrowing.
I confess I can get angry when Christians say things like, “let them have it” or “the persecution will be good for us” or “don’t impose morality.”
How dare we so flagrantly shirk the command of Christ to love our neighbour as ourselves. We, who know the grace of God, who have been plucked out of darkness into His “marvellous light” have no business sitting back, basking in grace, and doing nothing about the rise and rise of evil on our fellow Australians, however unaware they may be of it, and however much they may at first want it.
It also makes us disobedient to Christ’s command to be the light of the world. To do good works in and for the world – not ourselves, not only our families, not only our friends, and not only the church.
Someone’s morality will be legislated. Whose will it be? What will we do about it?
Pray that Christians everywhere would see sin and evil with Isaiah’s clarity. That vision in Isaiah 6 changed him forever. He was ultimately martyred for his public opposition to evil and proclamation of God’s truth.
Martyn Iles is the director of the Australian Christian Lobby.