Summary: Sin is the cosmic problem. It is the reason for the existence of the good news. And biblically speaking, without the emergence of sin in Genesis 3, we don’t have Genesis 4 through Revelation 22. The Scriptures tell the story of how God deals with the p
Sin in the Camp
Cascades Fellowship CRC, JX MI
August 17, 2003
The story of Frankenstein has fascinated generations since its appearing in 1818. It is a many-splendored thing, speaking eloquently on such social ills as child neglect and scientific advancement in the absence of ethics. The story is just as relevant today in the light of parent absenteeism and cloning as it was in the day of its writing.
But the story speaks to us in many other ways as well – subtle ways, evident only to the observant and wise. I remember when I studied this story in college. Since Romantic Literature was an upper level class, it was filled with literaries, who read into every story and poem their own ideals, rather than striving to understand the author’s intent. The theories on the message of Frankenstein abounded, and grew stranger as we progressed through the book.
Everything from Marxist theories to Freudian interpretations peppered our discussions. In all honesty, it was maddening, particularly when the story itself makes it clear that the real message is the arrogance – the pride, the hubris – of man in his continued and essentially unfettered manipulation of nature. Frankenstein vividly depicts how the pride of creating something new, which drives the motor of discovery, could have adverse consequences in the broader community.
When viewed theologically you can boil Frankenstein down to story about sin. Pride, arrogantly assuming the mantle of God, is what got us in trouble in the garden and it is the root of the travails that assail Victor Frankenstein. The monster becomes the embodiment of his pride and runs amok, destroying all the scientist held dear. What we find out about sin in Frankenstein is that it has a seeping quality about it – it pollutes all it touches, even beyond the sinful act itself.
Sin is a topic we don’t talk about much anymore. We speak at length and fondly of grace, we dwell often on love, we thrill at the talk of mercy, but when the conversation turns to sin, we clam up. We don’t have much to say. Many in the Christian church would like us to forget about sin. Why not accentuate the positive? Why talk about sin? All it does is bring us down – destroys our self-esteem. We cannot attract new believers to our church by talking about sin – such negativity would only drive the seeker away. No one wants to hear about how bad we are.
To accommodate this happy outlook we have even gone so far as to change the lyrics of some our oldest and most beloved hymns. No more talk of worms! It’s too degrading! Let’s change it to say “…to one such as I” or “ a sinner such as I.” Somehow we think that the change will make the truth more palatable to the unbelieving. Why talk about sin at all when we have so much good news to give?
Let me offer two answers – a common sense answer and a theological answer. The common sense answer is simply this – in order for the good news to be good, it must have a comparative, something to measure it against. For good news to be good, there has to be a bad news. Sin is the bad news.
The theological answer is that sin is the cosmic problem. It is the reason for the existence of the good news. And biblically speaking, without the emergence of sin in Genesis 3, we don’t have Genesis 4 through Revelation 22. The Scriptures tell the story of how God deals with the problem of sin and reclaims his misdirected creation. We need to speak of sin because it is essential to our story. Only in the shadow of the Fall does the light of the good news appear in its truest brilliance. We need to know how bad our situation really is before we can appreciate how good it can be in Christ. And we need to remember how bad it really was in order to truly grasp how blessed we are in Christ. So we talk about sin.
Which brings me to our passage this morning. Leviticus 4:13-21 is a passage filled with startling imagery aimed at exposing the seriousness of sin. It presents in compelling detail what the people of God must do when they realize the stain of sin has spread over the entire community. I want us to begin this morning by taking a look at the context for this passage – moving from its broader context to its more immediate framework. Then we will explore some of the imagery, coming to grips with how seriously sin should be taken. Finally, we will talk about this passage in our context – does it speak to us today?