Sin can certainly be described as a failure to let God be God, that is what Paul was getting at in Romans 1 when he began to lay out the case that all have sinned. And while it is true as far as it goes, sin is also a failure to meet God’s standard. It is disobedience to God. Because of the fall, sin is inherent in our nature as human beings. I know this objectively because the Bible describes the circumstances of the fall and man’s original disobedience that gave us that nature, and I know it subjectively, because I have noticed that my kids are perfectly capable of any number of sinful behaviors that I didn’t have to teach them to do.
As for why sin is so hard to discuss in contemporary culture, this is a modern and postmodern phenomenon primarily. No one seemed to take umbrage with Jonathan Edwards when he preached “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God”, but that same sermon and title today might get a pastor dismissed from a few churches even. As part of the desire of some to meet felt needs and draw seekers, there has been a shying away from the term sin altogether. Joel Osteen said he doesn’t like to use that kind of talk in church when he was a guest on Larry King Live a couple of years ago and if you watch one of his sermons you will find that he sticks to his preferences. Many people assume that it must work because of the size of his audience both live and on TV. I have heard people say that they were offended by the use of the word “wretch” in Amazing Grace to refer to us as humans. In a world that tries to sell the idea that everyone is right in their own eyes, telling people that they are wrong in God’s sight may not go over well. However, I have seen some who are unapologetic when it comes to speaking about sin. The people that put together the Way of the Master program as a way to teach people to share their faith are adamant about confronting people with their own sinful nature. They use the Ten Commandments as a touchstone for people to both see and admit their guilt or sinfulness before God. I have seen this process work with my own eyes as I have talked to people the same way, allowing them to admit their own guilt in light of God’s truth. It isn’t foolproof. Some are so caught up in postmodernism that they have created their own god, breaking another of God’s commandments by the way, a god who wouldn’t call anyone a sinner or send anyone to hell. But the door is open for the conversation in any case. Sin is a subject that has to be a part of evangelism and our relationship with God. Until we understand sin rightly, we cannot understand grace properly either and we lose the understanding of God’s holiness as well.