"When we think of naming problems 'sin,' we tend to react in one of two ways. One reaction is to punish sin. We become moralistic and condemning, morbidly curious about others' failings, morbidly depressed about our own failings. When we assume a punitive stance toward sin and assume that others do the same, then calling something 'sin' necessarily involves condemnation of self or others. We all know, however, both by Scripture and instinct, that those who would help others need to love them, and that those who would find help need to know love. In the interest, then, of bringing sweet necessities - grace, kindness, gentleness, patience, acceptance, tender solicitude and sympathetic understanding - we must come up with categories other than sin. The unexamined and ultimately bizarre logic of this reaction is that we assume that we can be Christlike toward others and ourselves only if we define a problem as something other than sin - as a psychological problem, a mental illness or an addiction.- David Powlison, "Questions at the Crossroads: The Care of Souls & Modern Psychotherapies" in Care for the Soul: Exploring the Intersection of Psychology & Theology, ed. Mark McMinn and Timothy Phillips (Downers Grove, Ill.: IVP, 2001), pp. 50-51.
People who would understand a problem as sin must presumably be punitive. But how curious it is that Jesus, whose gaze was utterly conditioned by the sin analytic, brought grace and kindness! In fact, to be conscious that sin is the problem is the only way to experience grace for oneself and the love as Jesus loved. When we know ourselves accurately, we become recipients of spectacular grace that we are able to give away freely and patiently. Because he knew his own sins and God's grace, the high priest was able to 'deal gently with the ignorant and wayward' (Heb. 5:2; cf. Heb 4:12-5:3). May we learn to know and do likewise.
The second reaction is to excuse sin. We euphemize, whitewash, re-label, evade, rationalize and blame. We get defensive about ourselves and we try to excuse others. This strategy is at work throughout the modern psychologies. It is part of their allure that they pretend to reflect deep and determinative knowledge about the human soul, yet they evade the essential problem of the soul. But when we know grace, we have no reason not to look in the mirror frankly and no reason not to help others look in the mirror. Indeed, we look in the mirror so that our hearts might be remade as we shout with exultation."