A Jagged Contention: Trivializing Sin

“The deep symbol of sin is one we also often trivialize by terming it merely a mistake. Many sins we euphemize; for example, we label fornication ‘sleeping together,’ which sounds so nice and cozy. We call it ‘fudging on our income tax’ when we cheat the government or a ‘little white lie’ when we do violence to the truth. Since in our culture we do not name sin for the despicable sin that it is, we rarely recognize how truly dead we are (see Ephesians 2:1-3).”

-Marva J Dawn in The Unnecessary Pastor: Rediscovering the Call pg. 53


Dawn demonstrates why the language we use to preach sin matters. What are other examples of how we have cheapened or sanitized the language of scripture? Can you think of examples of words we use that sell the gospel short?

Share your thoughts in the comments below


2 thoughts on “A Jagged Contention: Trivializing Sin

  1. “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” (Galatians 2:20)

    Anyone preached the full impact of this passage lately?


  2. One of the most interesting examples is “knowing” someone in the biblical sense. Judges 19:25:

    However, the men wouldn’t listen to him; so the man took hold of his concubine and brought her out to them. They raped her and abused her all night long; only at dawn did they let her go.(Complete Jewish Bible)

    But the men would not listen to him. So the man seized his concubine and made her go out to them. And they knew her and abused her all night until the morning. And as the dawn began to break, they let her go. (ESV)

    Genesis 4:1:

    The man had sexual relations with Havah his wife; she conceived, gave birth to Kayin [acquisition] and said, “I have acquired a man from Adonai.” (CJB)

    Now Adam knew Eve his wife, and she conceived and bore Cain, saying, “I have gotten[a] a man with the help of the Lord.” (ESV)

    We don’t like to use frank and honest terms. We’ll even resort to archaic and technical polysyllabic terms before “cursing”. While Luther could see a world full of Sheisse, we can’t, because a worldly morality, dictates of a 19th century “polite society” rule our language. We even sweat sex education because little kids can no longer go into the barnyard and see where little piglets come from (and we don’t want them to, it seems). There are church and school groups who won’t take their kids to an art museum. People don’t die, they “pass away” or we’ve “lost them.”

    If we lose the fact that Christ came to us with dirty diapers, real bowel movements, walked in streets with little or no sanitation, was surrounded, not only by sin, but death and disease, filth and poverty, then we sell the Gospel short. If we think that Jesus was, somehow, above all this and protected from human urges and needs as came to all of his senses or think that there was some politeness in all the banter about as everyone spoke in neat little “thees” and “thous”, we miss the point. Euphemism is shame, a way of trying to conceal our guilt, our nakedness, from God. We have long words and indirect terms for things that need to be plain spoken. Really, “fornication” is no better than “sleeping together” unless this is about building vocabulary. Neither says what it means because a young catechumen needs you to define the terms.

    So, rather than criticize speaking from our shame and nakedness, how do we bring frankness back to the language in a meaningful way so that we can preach in a better vernacular?


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