Opinion: Free speech, Christian conversion: How “Sin AwarenessDay” fails

By Arthur Garrison
Faculty Contributor

Late last month, KU was visited by a speaker who was participating in a national event called “SinAwarenessDay” which seems to have the purpose of announcing that there is sin in the world and that people should not sin. On various campuses, including KU, a lone speaker yells at students about sin and accuses various people of living in sin.

Needless to say his presence on the campus caused a full uproar in various parts of the university. Many argued his attacks were not free speech but hate speech because he accused students of sexual immorality, they were going to hell and that some should kill themselves because of their sin.

I am not going to debate the issue of free speech and the legal and social limitations on it. Those discussions are complicated and that is what our various law courses on this campus are for. Nor am I going to enter the debate of whether certain sexual behaviors are in fact sins.

But what bothered me about the visit was that the speaker used the name of Jesus and the faith of Christianity as his sole justification to attack people and how they live. His anger, if not hate, was justified by saying, “Thus saith the Lord” and that is what I want to take issue with.

But first, one point on how some social conservative Christians use the Bible to focus on certain sexual behaviors as abominations. It is a true fact that the Bible, both in the Old and the New Testament, says certain sexual behaviors are abominations. What is wrong is to leave out the other sins on God’s list of sins and more importantly why the Bible has a list in the first place.

In 2 Corinthians 6:9-10 it says: “Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God.” In Galatians 5:16, 19-21 it says, “I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh . . . . Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries and the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.”

In Romans 1:29-31 the list continues, “all unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, debate, deceit, malignity; whisperers, Backbiters, haters of God, despiteful, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, . . . . covenantbreakers . . . ., implacable, unmerciful.”

In Ephesians 4:25-32 we are told to put away, “lying . . . do not let the sun go down on your wrath . . . Let him who stole steal no longer . . . Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth . . . Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice. And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you.”

My point is simply this: Under these lists no one is perfect and all sins are equal as being abominations before the face of a perfect God. As James 2:10-13 explains, “For whoever shall keep the whole law, and yet stumble in one point, he is guilty of all.  For He who said, “Do not commit adultery,” also said, “Do not murder.” Now if you do not commit adultery, but you do murder, you have become a transgressor of the law.” No one can walk into heaven and stand in the face of God and say, “I sinned not before you all the days of my life.”

1 John 3:15 says that if you have ever hated anyone you have committed murder in your heart and in the presence of God. Consider – selfish ambition is a sin that will prevent you from entering heaven. Remember pride is what caused Lucifer to fall from heaven. Lying, gossip, backbiting and holding a grudge are enough to bar you from heaven.

“If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” you do well; but if you show partiality, you commit sin, and are convicted by the law as transgressors” (James 2:8-9).

With this in mind, I would respond to “SinAwarenessDay” and those who focus on certain sins that pointing to one sin on the list as if all others are not printed in the same sentences is the true abomination. It’s an abomination because it creates the idea that some people are not worthy of heaven while others enter heaven by not having certain sins on their resume while indulging in other sins.

Knowing that we all are not perfect before a perfect God and that any imperfection will prevent entrance into heaven is the point of the lists. And those of us who are Christians must always remember when we speak of sin that, “And such were some of you. But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God” (1 Corinthians 6:11). Justification before God did not happen by our works.

This brings me to my last point. Christianity is not about condemnation of sinners. Christianity is about redemption and God seeking a way to deal with all sins not just special types of sins.

For in his eyes, as Romans 3:23 tells us, “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” and in that truth we all can receive an answer to whatever sins we have committed on the lists. As the famous John 3:16 says, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.”

When Jesus was confronted with a person who committed a sexual sin, he faced down a religious mob with rocks and said, those of you without sin may cast the first stone and He said to her your sins are forgiven you, go and sin no more (John 8:1-12).

When another person of sexual immorality fell at his feet and cried for forgiveness with so much passion that she did not utter a word; Jesus called out the arrogance of the condemning religious priest for all to hear but Jesus said to the sinner at his feet – your sins which are many are forgiven (Luke 7:43-50). As Jesus himself said, “For I did not come to condemn the world, but to save the world” (John 12:47).

The Christian message is not to tell people you have sinned. The Christian message is not that there is a hierarchy of sin in which some sins are disqualifying while others are only bad judgement. The Christian message is that all have sinned and that entrance into heaven is a gift from God through his Son.

Entrance into heaven is not a reward earned by human activity; it’s a gift (Ephesians 2:8-9). Standing on campus yelling that heaven is earned or barred based on human activity rather than offering the truth in humility, love and peace that heaven is a gift through his son is where “SinAwarenessDay” went wrong.



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