“They rush to commit murder. Destruction and misery always follow them. They don’t know where to find peace.”
Romans 3:15-17 NLT
“Their feet run to do evil, and they rush to commit murder. They think only about sinning. Misery and destruction always follow them. They don’t know where to find peace or what it means to be just and good. They have mapped out crooked roads, and no one who follows them knows a moment’s peace.”
Isaiah 59:7-8 NLT
Paul quotes from more Old Testament Scripture, this time from the prophet Isaiah. Isaiah seemed to be in a similar situation to Paul. A prophetic voice crying out God’s message to an audience of sinful people. In Isaiah’s day, his message was directed at God’s chosen people, the Jews. In Paul’s day, his message was being delivered to the early Christians, some of whom had Jewish heritage. But there was one problem that united both peoples over the years, and that was sin. Isaiah put his finger on the problem in Isaiah 59:2, “It’s your sins that have cut you off from God. Because of your sins, he has turned away and will not listen anymore”.
The word “sin” is not a word that appears very often, if at all, in our secular society. We don’t find it appearing in newspaper reports, or on our Facebook or Twitter feeds. Television dramas don’t generally use the word, unless they have a religious element, such as the portrayal of a priest. Even the religious stalwart programmes, such as the BBC’s “Songs of Praise”, carefully avoid the use of the word, just in case offence is caused. But just because the word “sin” has fallen out of fashion or society’s memory, it doesn’t remove it from God’s vocabulary.
Society is full of people with a guilty conscience. The problem (for them) is that God has wired us to have a conscience because it will lead and direct us in how to behave in our sinful society. In the event that a conscience is violated by sin, all sorts of knock-on effects can result, not the least being illnesses which are very difficult to diagnose. So the guilt-ridden person, if they can afford it, engages the help of someone in the psychiatric profession to offer all sorts of therapy, in the hope that the problem will be resolved. But their money could be saved, and symptoms relieved, by an act of repentance, with perhaps a change in life choices. Turning to God and taking on board His remedy is the most effective cure for a guilty conscience. Only this will bring inner peace, so elusive otherwise to find.
There is another tendency for people to rationalise sinful behaviour by dealing with it as a treatable illness, or by referring to sinners with a more socially-acceptable term. Just this week a news report emerged in Scotland, with our policing body, “Police Scotland”, referring to paedophiles as “Minor-Attracted People”, or MAP’s, and in the process offering them treatment and other forms of help. However, sin is sin, regardless of what we call it. Renaming a good old-fashioned definition of a sinful act won’t fool God one bit. An unrepentant paedophile standing before God pleading that he’s not sinning because he’s a MAP, won’t wash.
Paul reminded his audience in Rome that there are consequences to sin. We still find the same consequences today. Sinful behaviour is followed by a lack of inner peace. A guilty conscience makes sure of that.
Dear God. We thank You that You built within us a conscience. We pray that through Your Spirit You keep out alive and well, always aware of Your ways and not sinful ways. In Jesus’ name. Amen.