The Wages of Sin is a B- in Radio
BY SEAN TERRY | JULY 12, 2021
After high school I attended Specs Howard School of Broadcast Arts in Southfield, Michigan. There I joined a couple dozen other students in a program called RVF 12-10 which stood for Radio-Video-Film, Class 12, Year 2010. I was most excited to learn anything to do with filmaking (I’ve always wanted to make movies), but learning skills in broadcasting and radio has also served me very well in what I do now. However, my weakest subject might have been radio production and voiceover performance.
I was instructed in radio production by the friendly and knowledgeable Jim Bell. He was a wonderful teacher, but the trouble I had was that producing a live radio broadcast could get very complicated and I often would make mistakes. This was made more embarrassing when I would take the recordings of my broadcasts and turn them in to be graded—in front of the whole class. It was awful listening to my own voice in front of others and having all my mistakes individually pointed out. Yet this was the best way to learn how important discipline and excellence are when presenting to a large audience.
Jim Bell taught us to “work the words” when speaking into a microphone. This takes years of practice, but it is what gives radio personalities their distinct ability to provide dynamic voiceover while speaking clearly. The tongue is like an instrument that can be repetitively tuned and trained for pronouncing eloquently and charismatically. I made a lot of mistakes not talking good (well). The other common mistake was when I fumbled in my transitions from song to song, or segment to segment. Any unintentional or awkward gap in the broadcast is referred to as “dead air,” and it really made me squirm when I heard mine. Just a couple seconds of unplanned silence could feel like an eternity.
Jim Bell had an interesting method for describing these kinds of mistakes. He called them “sins” and he would keep a count of how many “sins” our recording contained. Occasionally he would demonstrate a radio technique for us, but even if he ever made a mistake of his own he would laughingly announce, “Uh oh—I sinned!” When he called himself out it made my shortcomings feel a little better.
But there is a critical difference between real mistakes and real sins: mistakes are not made intentionally; sins are. This difference might seem obvious but I get confused by it all the time! When I fell through my ceiling, that was simply a mistake—just an unintentional accident. However, immediately after it happened I wanted to throw blame at myself as if I did something wrong. “Sean, you idiot! I can’t believe that just happened! Why did you do that!” As a matter of fact, I wasn’t upset that I did something wrong, but that there was something wrong with ME.
We tend to be very harsh with ourselves when we make mistakes. I will admit that I definitely struggle with perfectionism. Whenever I find out I made a mistake—maybe I upset a friend with something I said, or I forgot a commitment I made—it can leave me feeling awful. Mistakes feel very personal to me and seem like an indictment of my character or capability, so I deeply resent them and start to direct the blame inward (I basically beat myself up for messing up). A costly error can feel like a kick to the stomach—and I hate when people poke my stomach!
The irony of this is that, biblically speaking, this is closer to a description of a sin, not a mistake. One of the gifts of breaking my back is that it has made it a lot easier for me to be vulnerable. So I don’t have a problem admitting that I am not perfect. I can’t hide from the Holy Spirit forever, and eventually he will develop in me a sincere conviction for my sins. It might even surprise me how ashamed I become.
For example, I once tried to describe how evil something I had done was to a friend of mine. “You don’t understand.” I said. “I knew it was wrong BUT I DID IT ANYWAY!” My friend responded, “Yeah . . . that's sin, dude. Welcome to the club.” Sin is not about ignorance, it is about blunt disobedience. God has made it clear in His Word that sin will not go unpunished.
And he passed in front of Moses, proclaiming, “The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin. Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished; he punishes the children and their children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation.”
Isn’t there a bit of a contradiction in that verse? How can God claim He will forgive sin, but also unquestionably punish the guilty? Who else do you punish but the sinner? Who else do you FORGIVE but the sinner? How can you punish sin while also forgiving it? This is the riddle of the Old Testament. And it must have been a real head-scratcher until Jesus Messiah arrived on the scene.
Romans 6:23a AMPC
The wages which sin pays is death . . .
God is not a liar. He will bring true justice and penalty to all sin (we are usually happy about this when someone sins against us, but dread it when we are the one that sinned). Let’s be honest, mistakes are a huge bummer—they happen sometimes no matter how hard we try to avoid them. I can share with you countless stories of mistakes I’ve made for our Sunday morning services despite my best efforts (and so can my boss). But mistakes aren’t the problem. Sin is the problem. Yet Jesus didn’t give his life on the cross for your mistakes. He gave his life as the payment for your sins!
Romans 6:23b AMPC
. . . but the [bountiful] free gift of God is eternal life through (in union with) Jesus Christ our Lord.
John 3:17 ESV
For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.
This is the power of the Gospel. When Jesus becomes our Lord and Savior, we are not condemned for our sins. The price has been paid and the debt has been wiped away! It is this kind of mercy that can transform a life forever.
We don’t have to be condemned by our mistakes. In fact, I believe God allows us to make some mistakes because they can teach us lessons that will stick with us. I once heard it said that “some mistakes are so costly, you only need to make them once.”(For more information on this subject, please refer to my hospital bill.) I also believe that sometimes mistakes happen so that in our weakness we have the opportunity to be shown love by our brothers and sisters.
Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.
Let me tell you, I’ve had some very powerful experiences in the presence of God; I’ve witnessed healings, miracles, and signs that will make you wonder. But nothing has ever set me free more than telling someone my sins (and I mean the truly terrible ones) and finding no condemnation from God or from them. The best news of Christianity is it is the only religion that preaches that one day we can enter Heaven without a single drop of self-righteousness. It isn’t our righteousness that ensures our salvation; it is Christ’s. When my voiceover isn’t credible enough, Jesus provides his—and all the dead air is covered up. The only thing left for me to do is to acknowledge my sins, learn from my mistakes, and be more careful when walking around inside an attic!