Speaking About Sin and the Wrath of God

I had a discussion with a pastor the other day who was telling me that a couple of his members would like the language “toned down” when one speaks against homosexuality. Their perspective is that “strong language” might make a homosexual feel bad and even lead a person to commit suicide.

The conversation got me to thinking about the question: How do we speak God’s Law in our world where nothing seems to be “sin” and where “tolerance” is enshrined as dogma?
John Oberdeck addresses this question in an article that was published in the Concordia Journal.

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“What should we take with us from this study of speaking about sin and the wrath of God to contemporary American [Canadian] culture? Three points emerge:

1. God’s wrath over sin frightens us. We are not told to fear those who can kill the body, but to fear the “One who can destroy both body and soul in hell” (Matt. 10:28 NIV). We are very aware of the judgment from which Jesus has saved us.
2. We are not surprised that the message of God’s wrath is met with denial, anger, or bargaining, because it is ill-news of the worst kind, not unlike learning one has a terminal disease. We are assisted in our proclamation of Law and Gospel by recognizing stages of grief, exercising patience when faced with denial, being non-defensive when confronted by anger, and pointing to the cross of Jesus when bargaining is attempted.

3. We have at our disposal a rich heritage of liturgical worship practice that is, at its roots, experiential, participatory, image filled, and connected. We will communicate well with postmodern culture to the extent that we can adapt our heritage in fresh and creative ways.

Gandalf [from Lord of the Rings] wasn’t welcome when he arrived in Edoras. But when he had brought King Theoden out of his stupor, his next act was to tear down the curtain and let the light, long shut out by lies and deceptions, into the great hall of the King. Then he opened the doors and windows and let the fresh air, driven by a sharp wind, cleanse the room. Doesn’t this describe what we are called to do for a deceived world; to let the light shine, and open the way for the Spirit to move when and where He wills?

From: “Speaking to Contemporary American Culture on Sin and the Wrath of God” by John W. Oberdeck in Concordia Journal, October 2005, Vol. 31 No. 4, pages 409-410.

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