The Bible uses several images to describe the act of disobeying God. It is like an archer missing the bullseye. It is like a person crossing over a boundary that they should not cross. It is like a thief waiting to steal, kill and destroy. Sin is ugly and leaves a path of destruction in its wake.
While it is not found in the Bible, I still think a fitting image for sin is cancer. Cancer starts with a few bad cells joining together. It grows inside of us. It consumes and kills us if we ignore it. Cancer destroys people, family, and friends. There is no one exempt from the effects of cancer in our world.
The way we deal with cancer is equally difficult. When you are found to have it, you are required to have surgery, radiation, chemo and sometimes a combination of these treatments. The cells and the tumor they have formed must be eradicated. You cannot ignore cancer, and it will magically go away. I had a man in the Church who was older and didn’t want to receive the treatment. He read online about a diet that could help and so he quit smoking and took up a strict diet and exercise plan. Quickly cancer took over, and his life ended sooner than expected. Cancer cannot be ignored.
I think the analogy of cancer as sin is totally fitting. Sin like cancer destroys people. Also, sin like cancer must be treated.
I think both of these truths are completely obvious. I think most people are aware of the devastating effects of sin. The hard part is dealing with it. How do we show a person love while asking them to change their ways? How do we love the sinner and hate the sin?
For some people, the answer has simply been to accept the sin and not ask people to change. Like a doctor telling you that you have cancer and then ignoring it.
Others have stood again firmly against sin and ignored the person involved in the struggle. To me, that is like a doctor giving an aggressive treatment without ever talking to the patient.
This is the great tension of the Christian life. How to de love people as God wants them loved while hating sin as much as God hates sin?
I don’t have a wonderful three-part solution that fixes this issue. Through the years I have developed more concern over how we handle this one issue than any other. And yet I have developed few answers.
One thing I am sure will not help is saying, “Do not judge.” Another thing that will not help is shouting in an angry tone, “You are going to hell.”
Maybe the Christian life is meant to be lived with this difficult question? Maybe we are called to live without becoming too soft or too calloused? My hope is that each and every believer would wrestle with this issue with grit and grace. Cancer cannot be ignored, and neither can sin.