I have been reading blogs on a variety of controversial topics lately. That's my first mistake! It's a good way to get discouraged. However, I wanted to share an insight I have about one common thread among the comments to these blogs.
The bloggers I read are typically committed Christians who exhort their readers to consider whether certain behaviors are befitting of believers. Yes, horror of horrors, these bloggers are using the S word–sin. After doing a careful analysis of the issue, typically including a humble admission of having engaged in the sin themselves, these bloggers use Scripture to conclude that they and we ought to sin no more.
Although there are a few comments from people who are obviously not believers that include lots of nasty name calling (and no reasoned arguments), the most upsetting comments to me are from those who say they are also Christians. The comments include phrases like, "You shouldn't judge me" and "I don't think Jesus would say that was wrong" and "The Bible doesn't specifically name that as sin." I would like to respond to each of these objections in turn.
- You shouldn't judge me. This argument is based on Scriptures like Matthew 7:1
“Do not judge, or you too will be judged." Does that mean that we ought never to tell another believer she is in sin? That's a common interpretation. Certainly the Old Testament prophets were bold in proclaiming that the people of God were in sin. Micah 3:8 reads, "But as for me, I am filled with power, with the Spirit of the LORD, and with justice and might, to declare to Jacob his transgression, to Israel his sin." If Jesus meant that we were never to call sin a sin, what are we to make of Matthew 18:15, “If your brother or sister sins, go and point out their fault, just between the two of you. If they listen to you, you have won them over."
Certainly we ought not tell a fellow believer that if she does such and so, she is going to hell. That is clearly judging and condemning, something Christ told us NOT to do. But suggesting that we never use the S word with one another is not the intent of this "don't judge" admonition, based on the entirety of Scripture.
- I don't think Jesus would say that was wrong. This argument presupposes that Jesus was soft on sin. After all, he told the people ready to stone the adulteress that they could cast the first stone if they were without sin. But is it the case that since we are all guilty of sin, that Jesus was okay with our continuing in it? John 8:11 tells us otherwise, “Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.” And Paul argued in Romans 6 that while we enjoy God's grace in spite of our sin, we ought not continue in it. 1 John 3:6 is even stronger on this point. "No one who lives in him keeps on sinning. No one who continues to sin has either seen him or known him." In other words, if you don't think Jesus had a problem with sin, you don't know Jesus. After all, sin was what led Him to the cross.
- The Bible doesn't specifically name this as sin. While it is true that the Bible doesn't reference modern terms and technology, the Bible isn't silent on the moral issues of our day. For example, do we really have to wonder if pornography is okay when Jesus said, "But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart." (Matthew 5:28) So many of the controversial issues of our day ARE addressed in Scripture. For those that aren't, we can compare the alleged sin to the two greatest commandments which apply to all of us as believers: "He answered, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’ ; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ ” (Luke 10:27) When you add the other clear admonitions to honor parents and authorities, and to avoid temptation and the appearance of evil, you will determine that the Bible gives us a definitive answer on sin in most cases.
Okay, but what if you still aren't sure if something is a sin or not? Consider the following:
- Anger and guilt. The Old Testament and even much of the New give us a glimpse into how people respond when confronted with their sin; they're not happy about it! In contrast, when someone accuses me of wrongdoing for something that I know isn't wrong, I don't get angry. When I know deep down that I am guilty, however, I get very upset. If an assertion from another believer that something you're doing is wrong really gets your goat, you may be dealing with sin.
- Prayer. God is not the author of confusion. If you are in sin, He is going to respond to your request that He make that clear to you. If He reveals that you are in fact in sin, repentance will restore peace to your soul.
- If it's sin for you, it's sin. The Bible makes it clear that even if others don't share your conviction, you are absolutely right to avoid behaviors that are wrong according to your own conscience (James 4:17). Where you're not absolutely right is in insisting that everyone agree with you when the issue isn't clear cut.
- If you're convinced you're not in sin, don't worry about others' opinion. If you have prayed and studied Scripture and you're convinced that it's a matter of choice not prohibited by Scripture, then don't engage in further discussion of the issue. The Bible speaks of allowing believers to suit their own consciences (Romans 14).
- If you're convinced something is a sin, but other believers don't agree, pray. By all means, we ought to exhort one another as I am doing in this blog post. But if your brother or sister isn't convinced they are in sin, you have two choices. If it's a sin that isn't in question (e.g., adultery), follow the prescription of Matthew 18. If it is not an agreed-upon sin issue amongst Bible-believing Christians, drop the matter and pray for your fellow believer. God may very well be able to work in the heart of your fellow believer more effectively when she isn't having to debate you.
What I know for sure is that not everything we do as believers is okay. While in the body, we are still sinners. We can be deceived into believing that we shouldn't be judged, that Jesus wouldn't have a problem with our sin, or that the Bible doesn't address our sin. Despite what some Christians say, I know that not everything we do is okay. If it were, why would we need a Savior?