Friday, August 30, 2013

Our Definition of Sin

I've been wrestling with something for a few weeks now, and I think it's finally time for me to put my thoughts in print.

Here are the questions I've been struggling with:
How do we, as Christ-followers, define sin?  Are we afraid to confront sin because we might offend someone?

Without argument, Christians are called to live a life that pursues righteousness.  While we know that perfection is well beyond our reach, we are still instructed to chase after it, to desire it.  Here are a few Scriptures that support this:
Titus 2:12 instructs us "to turn from godless living and sinful pleasures. We should live in this evil world with wisdom, righteousness, and devotion to God..."  

Romans 12:2 says, "Do not be conformed to this world..."  

1 Peter 1:14-16 says, "So you must live as God’s obedient children. Don’t slip back into your old ways of living to satisfy your own desires. You didn’t know any better then. But now you must be holy in everything you do, just as God who chose you is holy. For the Scriptures say, 'You must be holy because I am holy.'”

I think we can also all agree that the morality of our world has declined drastically in recent decades.  (Although I would argue that we're not much different now than the pagan world that existed in Biblical times.)  What was once considered scandalous is now considered normal... glorified even: sexuality with no ties to marriage, foul and obscene language, violence, homosexual relationships...  And while most of us would readily agree that these are not Godly things, we are often afraid to take a stand and call them what they really are: SIN.

Because who are we to tell other people that they are sinning?  After all, we're not to judge others unless we want to be judged in the same manner.  And besides, it's so common anymore, so why try to fight it?

I was talking with a colleague about this the other day and she described it so perfectly.  Here is what she said:

     The Church (and by that I mean all of God's people worldwide) is called to be set apart from the world (1 Peter 2:9), and so we as God's people have figuratively set ourselves 50 feet from the world, saying, "We aren't going to participate in the sinful things the world does."  And then, over time, the world has shifted.  Like I described earlier, things that were once considered shameful have become socially acceptable.

      The problem is that as the world has shifted, so has the Church.  Why?  Because the standard we put in place was to be 50 feet from the world.   And if our goal is to always be 50 feet from the world, as the world drifts away from Godliness, so will the Church.

Godliness cannot be measured by how much it doesn't resemble the world.  Our standard of Godliness must be something that doesn't change or shift; Godliness must be measured against the righteousness of God Himself.  We as His Church must anchor ourselves in HIM and in HIS definition of righteousness, so that as the world drifts toward UN-righteousness we are not pulled with it.

As we strive to bring righteousness and holiness into a very unholy world, our feet must be firmly planted in the Word of God and in what HE has deemed right and true.  The world gets no say in the matter.

Calling something a sin that the world has deemed acceptable is hard, I know.  Especially when it means confronting someone you love.  NO ONE likes to be told that they're doing something wrong, and I really don't think any of us enjoy being the one to do the telling.  But as God's people we've GOT to start speaking up, especially when it's our Christian brothers and sisters who are choosing to live in sin!  We can no longer ignore it or turn our heads from it simply because the rest of the world has said it's okay.

Read how strongly Paul reacts to the church in Corinth when he discovers that they have among them someone living in blatant sin:
(Really, all of 1 Corinthians chapter 5 speaks toward this, but I have narrowed it down to just this passage.) 
1 Corinthians 5:9-13
     When I wrote to you before, I told you not to associate with people who indulge in sexual sin. But I wasn’t talking about unbelievers who indulge in sexual sin, or are greedy, or cheat people, or worship idols. You would have to leave this world to avoid people like that. I meant that you are not to associate with anyone who claims to be a believer yet indulges in sexual sin, or is greedy, or worships idols, or is abusive, or is a drunkard, or cheats people. Don’t even eat with such people.
     It isn’t my responsibility to judge outsiders, but it certainly is your responsibility to judge those inside the church who are sinning. God will judge those on the outside; but as the Scriptures say, “You must remove the evil person from among you."
I'm not asking that we as a church be judgmental and harsh or even legalistic.  I agree that the church should be a place where people can come to escape the ugliness of the world and begin to heal.  Our congregation's motto is "A Place to Start Life Over," and I think that's exactly what the church should be.  But part of that is helping each other live a life that pursues righteousness.   Galatians 6:1 tells us that we are to humbly and gently help a brother or sister who is caught in a lifestyle of sin to find their way back to the right path.  Hebrews 3:13 says, "You must warn each other every day, while it is still 'today,' so that none of you will be deceived by sin and hardened against God." 

I know that Jesus' Gospel is one of love and grace, but part of loving our fellow Christ-followers is helping them walk a path toward righteousness!  We cannot help each other to pursue righteousness if we refuse to define sin by God's standards instead of the world's.  

Obviously, our first responsibility is to make sure that we, ourselves, are walking in holiness.  But let's not be so afraid of hurting someone's feelings or making them angry with us that we neglect to encourage them to walk in holiness, too.  Be purposeful in defining right and wrong by what is outlined in Scripture, not the headlines of the latest magazine.  Be bold in your stand for His Truth.  Let us be together God's Church, passionate about Christ and anchored in His righteousness.

1 comment:

  1. I think you hit the nail on the head when you said that we should make sure we are living in Holiness. Too many times I have witnessed someone who is blatantly living in sin trying to tell someone else about their sin. Its like that passage that says (something like this)Why do you try to take the sliver from my eye when you have a log in yours???????????????

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