By Any Other Name

by Glenn Hamilton

Dr. J. Wilbur Chapman told of a distinguished minister, Dr. Howard from Australia, who preached very strongly on the subject of sin. After the meeting, someone remarked "Dr. Howard, you shouldn’t talk as openly as you do about man’s guilt and corruption as it may offend someone. And if our boys and girls hear you discussing that subject, they will more easily become sinners. Call it a "mistake" if you will, an "error in judgment", but do not speak so plainly about SIN."

Dr. Howard took a small bottle down from a shelf and showing it to the visitor said, "You see that label? It says ‘STRYCHNINE’ - and underneath in bold, red letters the word ‘POISON.’ Do you know, man, what you are asking me to do? You are suggesting that I change the label! Suppose I do and paste over it the words, ‘Essence of Peppermint’ don’t you see what might happen? Someone would use it, not knowing the danger involved, and would certainly die. So it is, too, with this matter of sin. The milder you make your label; the more dangerous you make the poison!"

How often do well-meaning Christians fall into this trap? We want people to like us and accept us, so do not dare talk about sin as sin. We watch TV and see politicians dance around questions of sin. We may sit back and snicker and say, "Why doesn’t he just say it is sin?" But then we go off to the office and perform the same dance. What did you say when friends and co-workers asked your opinion of the gay marriages occurring in San Francisco and other areas? Did you say it is "illegal", "a bad choice", "a question for the courts", or some other non-committal answer? Or did you just come out and say, "Homosexuality is a sin, making a marriage out of it does nothing to change its sinfulness." God clearly labels homosexuality as a sin (Romans 1:26-27; 1 Corinthians 6:9-10). Do we dare change the label? So why do we compromise the truth? Perhaps we are afraid of being labeled as "intolerant" or "bigoted". Such a reputation could result in not being promoted or even being fired. Perhaps telling the truth would mean we would lose a friendship.

Fear of upsetting people has often led God’s spokesmen to "soften" the message. Consider God’s response to such label-changing:

""It is definitely because they have misled My people by saying, ‘Peace!’ when there is no peace. And when anyone builds a wall, behold, they plaster it over with whitewash; so tell those who plaster it over with whitewash, that it will fall. A flooding rain will come, and you, O hailstones, will fall; and a violent wind will break out. Behold, when the wall has fallen, will you not be asked, ‘Where is the plaster with which you plastered it?’" Therefore, thus says the Lord GOD, "I will make a violent wind break out in My wrath. There will also be in My anger a flooding rain and hailstones to consume it in wrath. So I will tear down the wall which you plastered over with whitewash and bring it down to the ground, so that its foundation is laid bare; and when it falls, you will be consumed in its midst. And you will know that I am the LORD. Thus I will spend My wrath on the wall and on those who have plastered it over with whitewash; and I will say to you, ‘The wall is gone and its plasterers are gone, along with the prophets of Israel who prophesy to Jerusalem, and who see visions of peace for her when there is no peace,’" declares the Lord GOD." (Ezekiel 13:10-16)

Changing labels and even covering up the sin will not change the sin, and it won’t change the consequences. "For the wages of sin is death..." (Romans 6:23a). Trying to change the label which God has placed on certain activities will only lead to more deaths, including your own (cf. Ezekiel 33:7-9). Now, what will you say when the topic at work, school, or home turns into sinful activities? The pressure will always be there to make some comment that shows you accept or tolerate sinful actions.

It has been said that "A rose by any other name would smell as sweet." And it is certainly true that sin by any other name smells just as rotten.

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