Most of this year I've been out training around Australia training anyone who wants to learn how to share the gospel and make disciples.
Every now and again someone interrupts the training, or takes me aside afterwards, and explains that we need to contextualise the gospel presentation and remove the problem of sin.
Apparently any mention of sin is inappropriate for certain cultures. Sometimes I'm told it's a postmodern problem. It can even be a Chinese or Iranian problem. Any mention of sin, I'm advised, is unhelpful. The list of cultures with a sin problem is growing.
Apparently what we need to do is maximise the message of God's love and leave out that confronting message about our sin and God's judgment.
This sin problem is not new. It's the same problem Paul faced in his mission to the civilised world of the Roman empire. How did he deal with it?
Paul unequivocally calls pagans who listen to his preaching to turn to the one true and living God who created the world (Acts 17:30-31; 1 Thess 1:9). And he insisted that sin can only be forgiven through faith in Jesus, a Jew from Nazareth, who died on a cross for the sins of the world, whom God raised from the dead and who will return to judge the world. Paul knows that pagans must regard this news as intellectual and religious nonsense. He knows that it is only God himself who can cause Greeks to believe in Jesus the messianic Savior and Lord (1 Cor 1:17-25).
When people suggest the Christian message should be adapted to the intellectual and rhetorical needs and expectations of a Greek audience, Paul argues, they ignore the foundation that has been laid and start constructing a building that will surely collapse . . . These people will be judged by God (1 Cor 3:10-15).
If sin is not a problem, why did Christ die?