In his book Rumors, Philip Yancey, writes the following very important observation about sin (Rumors of Another World – Copyright ©2003 by SCCT):
In Chinese opera, heroes wear a certain color of face paint with a few simple strokes, while villains wear a different palette in complex patterns. In real life, unlike Chinese opera, we cannot tell the heroes and villains by the color of paint on their faces. Medieval saints spoke of the Fiend with his stench; more often evil appears as a friend with a smell like perfume.
We can identify some villains, to be sure: suicide bombers who target civilians, priests who abuse children, drug lords in Latin America. The problem is, evil rarely announces itself so brazenly. Like citizens of an industrial city who no longer notice pollution, we cannot detect more subtle evils in our cultural atmosphere. Consider the seven deadly sins, a moral checklist that emerged from centuries of reflection. We live in a modern world so disordered from the original design that the entire notion of what is good for us has turned upside down.
In the modern United States, at least, the seven deadly sins might be renamed the seven seductive virtues:
Pride: In music, sports, and business, we reserve our applause for winners, and those who flaunt it with an attitude tend to garner the most publicity. We strut our medals at the Olympic Games, lavish rewards on winners, and read management books patterned after Machiavelli and Attila the Hun.
Envy: Our entire advertising industry is built on inciting envy of colleagues and neighbors, so that whatever new electronic marvel or body shape my neighbor has, I want too.
Anger: We must get in touch with and express our anger, counselors tell us. Encounter groups, television trash-talk shows, town meetings, and political debates offer ample opportunity to do so.
Greed: The economic engine of our nation, and indeed the world, depends on a constant sense of discontent that motivates each consumer to desire ever more.
Sloth: Find an island with a beach, retire early, relax, slow down, feel good – it’s all part of the American dream.
Gluttony: Every year the “big gulp” drinks and supersize French fries get bigger, as do the waistlines. Currently 64 percent of Americans are overweight, with half of that percentage qualifying as obese.
Lust: From Lycra-clad professional cheerleaders to dancing babes on MTV videos, lust is ubiquitous in modern America, the single most profitable industry on the Internet.
In the modern world, sin approaches in camouflage. Too late do we realize that it blocks the path to shalom, to wholeness and health. We miss the hidden dangers that prompted the ancients to regard these sins as deadly.
So do you know sin when you see it?