What do Matt Hancock, Dominic Cummings and Professor Neil Ferguson have in common? That’s right, they have all been found guilty in the court of public opinion of committing the ultimate unforgivable sin. What is that sin? Well despite what you might think, it isn’t that they broke COVID rules. Despite the reaction and commentary of many of us Christian bloggers, the breach of social distancing and quarantining rules was not the primary problem. That particular offence is forgivable and if they had been different people, then they would have quickly had the back up of MPs, newspapers, media personalities and hundreds of tweeters willing to denounce the absurdity of the regulations they had broken.
No, the sin they committed was hypocrisy. As others like Giles Fraser, Steve Kneale and Melanie Phillips have picked up, this is the number one sin now. They were guilty of breaking the very rules they had created of asking us to “do as I say not as I do” And that is unforgiveable in today’s world. In fact I would go so far as to say it is pretty much one of the last great sins left.
Why is that so? Well, if we think about it carefully then we realise that this is the logical conclusion of postmodern philosophy. If morality and truth is relative and if I have my truth and must speak it, then the ultimate command is “Be true to yourself.” And if I’m not true to myself then what do I have left.
Don’t get me wrong, as Fraser and Kneale insist, hypocrisy is sinful and indeed the hypocrisy of it all is that we call out others for it whilst being hypocrites ourselves. The problem is that we cannot be true to ourselves, we cannot even keep our own rules. Integrity matters and is an essential quality but if this integrity is not rooted in objective moral standards then it becomes debased and pretty much meaningless. I mean, imagine the horror of someone saying about Fred West, Adolph Hitler or Jimmy Saville “Well at least they were true to themselves.”
Ultimately, this worldview proves selfish, inward looking and narcissistic. Being true to yourself is rooted in self-love. Whitney Houston with a lot of help from Oprah did teach the children well. We have learnt to love ourselves and to see that as the greatest love of all. And yet, God’s Word offers a better way in the true truth and true good that it proclaims and demonstrates. We are called not to love ourselves and so to be true to ourselves. Rather we are to love God wholeheartedly and to love our neighbours (the other). This concern for the honour and glory of one greater and for the needs of those around us before ourselves is the root of the commandments that really were broke by these men as in their selfishness they put their wants ahead of the needs of their families and neighbours. But it is also the root of the commandments that we all break all the time.
This means that those warning us not to judge others lest we be judged are right too. If we all fal short, if we all sin then we need atonement and there is a greater problem still which we will return to. What do we do about sin in an age without atonement?