george_hancockstefanWhen I was asked the question that formed the title of this article, I did not know how to answer!  Was this question asked so that I will confess the sin/s I have not confessed to anyone else?  In such instances, it is always good to ask for an explanation. I found out from my inquiring friend that he meant to ask if I had a favorite sin to criticize. His feeling was that most pastors get caught up with criticizing a particular sin. No matter what the topic we are speaking about, we end up with illustrations about that sin.

When I lived in the communist country of Yugoslavia and attended schools where atheism was expected as the lifestyle for anyone who would consider oneself smart or an intellectual, my communist friends would say, “How can you believe such stuff? You are so retrograde that you would fit very well on Noah’s ark?” I would thank them for asking me that question, congratulate them for talking about Noah’s ark, and remind them that all of the intellectuals who poked fun at Noah ended up on the outside of the ark when the flood came. 

If one reads the Old and New Testament carefully, they would agree that idolatry was the favorite sin of the pagan nations as well as of the chosen people of God, Israel. The prophets speak about idolatry often and John concludes his epistle with the words, “My children keep yourself from idols.” Idolatry was so comprehensive in Biblical times – it was the economical center and the worship center.  Nations had their own idols which gave them an ethnic identity. Artisan guilds had their patron idols and each market had their idol which hovered over the fruits, vegetables, and animals that the people brought to sell.

Probably the next favorite sin of many people was polygamy. Of the three patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, only Isaac is a monogamist. Sarah convinces Abraham to take Hagar, her servant, as his concubine and to have a child with her because God was late in answering his promise. Jacob married two sisters and each one of them came with their own servant girl. Was Jacob unable to see from his father Isaac and mother Rebecca that the monogamous relationship was what God intended for families?  When Jesus is confronted with the issue of multiple marriages and polygamy, he tells them that God allowed it because of the hardness of their hearts but from the beginning it was not so.

It is this concept of beginnings, or originality, that St Aquinas develops into the concept of natural law. God created and established certain laws in the universe. He has made these laws known to the sons and daughters of men so that they will follow them and be blessed.  Whenever these laws are broken, God has already set consequences. God intended for Adam and Eve to be in the Garden of Paradise, but their disobedience led God to cast them out. God intended one husband to have one wife. When this intention of God is broken, the family will encounter many problems.

Within the last 30-40 years, the homosexual/lesbian/transgendered revolution has taken place and I have been a witness of it. It is interesting that I could follow the argument from the perspective of liberty and economics. Even when President Obama’s position evolved, I was able to follow what he was doing. He talked like a politician who was figuring things out and this was a part of his political plan. What makes me very uneasy is for homosexual advocacy groups to tell the Ocean Grove Camp Meeting Association that they cannot allow a speaker who disagrees with their platform to speak. They want to impose an interpretation of the Scriptures on all churches, to marginalize churches that disagree with them and to use that disagreement like an ancient shibboleth – anyone who disagrees with us must hate us!

I do not have a favorite sin and some of the sins of the past are no longer as acute in our society.  Idolatrous behavior can be found, but not in the same way that it was in the days of Paul. He visited Ephesus and was almost stoned to death because he told them that the temple of goddess Diana did not fall from heaven.  John the Baptist lost his head over the fact that he stood up to Herod and told him that he could not marry his brother’s wife.  Herod was similar to Henry VIII, who wanted to marry whoever he wanted and removed anyone who opposed him.

About five years ago, Dr. Ron Sider (author of Rich Christians In An Age of Hunger and more than 20 other books) preached at a large church about divorce. At the end of the service, he was told that if he hopes to be invited back, he should soften his position on divorce because that church had many divorced members. What surprised Dr. Sider was that the congregation did not just ask guest preachers to avoid preaching on divorce. They did not want to hear about the subject at all, regardless of how many times it can be found in the Scriptures.

I am afraid that if not in my lifetime then in the lifetime of my grandson, the sin of homosexuality/lesbianism will become such a part of our society that anyone who thinks of it as a sin will be considered a hatemonger. It may become like my childhood under communism when we were not allowed to preach on the kingdom of God, and we will not be allowed to preach the whole Scripture.