Guest Editorial Reflections on Preaching Sin as an Act of Love

I still recall the first time I sang the hymn, God, Be Merciful to Me.
The opening words of the third verse declare, “I am evil, born in
sin.” As soon as the words left my mouth, my soul balked,
accusing the hymnist of hyperbole, even harshness. Sinful? Yes.
Evil? Hardly. But the word lingered, knocking about the back of
my mind, humbling me, as my conscience questioned my
reaction. “Why not call you evil? What part of you shines as holy
as God? Does your heart not also display the corruption of
Adam, your father?” Soon, self-defense turned to self examination,
accusation to prayer, and defiance to repentance. I
too think evil, speak evil, do evil. If “out of the heart come evil
thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false
witness, [and] slander” (Matthew 15:19), then my heart—the core
of my being—is, in fact, evil. The stark, ugly truth, though hard
to hear, forged in me deeper awareness of my own sin, and thus
deeper appreciation for the Christ who overcomes it.
Would you ever stand in the pulpit and say to your sheep,
“You are evil, born in sin?” My experience with God, Be Merciful
to Me has, over time, affected not only my awareness of the
depths of my own sin, but also the manner in which I preach
about sin. I have grown more direct, more probing, more willing
to say hard things. The world, and some Christians with it, label
preaching about sin “unloving.” But I have come to see that
preaching the stark reality of sin, so far from comprising a
loveless act, represents instead a profound act of love.