I don’t know if it’s true or not, but a few years ago I heard that a hospital thought that since the word “death” had negative connotations that in the future such events were to be referred to as “negative patient outcome”. This past week I read a piece that some meteorological folk in the UK want to stop using the word “drought” and instead use the term “rainfall deficit”.
Of course in a world of spin and euphemism it’s amazing we still call red “red” and purple “purple” and day “day” and night “night”. We hardly ever call anything what it actually is anymore – not even in the professing church, which is maybe the heart of the problem. After all, if the church can’t speak the language of truth how can we expect the world to understand and speak truth?
People don’t need to repent of self and sin and receive the life of Christ, they need self-esteem. And sin is no longer sin, it is “not measuring up” or “not reaching our potential” or “missing the mark” or “not living up to the glory of God”. While it is true that one of the Biblical words for sin does have the idea of “missing the mark” and while it is also true that sin has caused everyone to “fall short of the glory of God” – sin is much more than missing the mark, it is much more than “blowing it” or “not getting it” or just about any other term we can think of – because the nature of sin is such that nothing we could or can do can deliver us from sin, and the nature of sin is such that Jesus Christ died to receive the judgment for our sin, the wrath of God being poured out on Him; we can scarcely approach comprehension of this –so great is the heinousness of sin, so great is the holiness and justice and love and mercy of God, and so little are we.
Sin is a terrible thing and it should no more be the object of euphemism than should the word “cancer”. The “C” word carries with it gravity at best, fear and dread at worst – what responsible doctor would make light of cancer – mitigating the force behind the word? How can a responsible Christian make light of sin by giving it another name? Someone may say, “Well, people don’t know what the word “sin” means anymore.” Whose fault is that? If the church doesn’t use the word how can we expect anyone to know what it means? The general populace uses many medical terms without blinking an eye, and when the average man or woman encounters an unknown medical term he or she will ask the meaning of it readily enough – medicine does not dumb down, why does the professing church?
Just as the wise doctor offers hope to the cancer patient, the wise Christian offers hope to those who confront sin, after all the Gospel means “Good News”. Unlike cancer that does not have a certain cure, there is a certain remedy for sin, a certain solution, a sure salvation – it is Jesus Christ.
When we euphemize sin in our general thinking and speech we lessen our awareness of it in our own lives, we euphemize specific sins and attribute them to environment or family history or stress or ill health or economic pressure or….or…the list goes on. All of a sudden sin is no longer sin and we are all in therapy of one form or another.
Rainfall deficit? Really?