I’m going to get real with you and admit that I have been really disappointed in people lately. Really. So I went to the Lord with the problem, assuming He would sympathize. Instead, He said, “I know. Imagine how I feel.”
I have tried convincing myself that the people I’m disappointed in haven’t done anything wrong. That isn’t working. They clearly have done wrong, even by God’s definition. I have tried telling myself that everyone sins. That doesn’t help either. I’m still really disappointed that especially professing Christians are so comfortable with sin. I’m not really sure what I expected God to do to make me feel better–give people a supernatural spanking? Turns out, God gave me one instead. Here it is (ouch!).
9 To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everyone else, Jesus told this parable: 10“Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’
13 “But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’
14 “I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”
Discipline, while painful at the time, always teaches us something. Here is what I’ve learned. I will be disappointed in people if I compare them to my inflated opinion of myself and yes, even if I compare them to God’s perfect law. To gain victory over disappointment in others, I must keep my eyes focused on the Lord and how *I* look in comparison. Turns out I look like a really bad “before” picture.
There is no question that I am someone else’s disappointment. There is also no question that sometimes we are called to lovingly and honestly talk to others who have hurt us or who are going astray. But remaining stuck in disappointment with others means we need our vision corrected. Thank you, Lord, for helping me see myself more clearly and as a result, loving you more dearly.
Since having my last child almost six years ago, I have had increasingly severe bouts of PMS. This means that I have had more and more of what an O Magazine writer once called "rusty fork moments." Specifically, the writer said that when she was suffering from PMS, she imagined taking a rusty fork and jabbing it into the forehead of her beloved husband.
That article made me laugh because I could relate. But there is very little that is funny about PMS. PMS, accepted as a real phenomenon by all but never-married male doctors, can provoke women to:
- Cry over just about anything
- Feel her life is suddenly miserable though nothing has changed
- Forego daily responsibilities
- Use foul language
- Scream or otherwise pitch an angry fit
- Violence (or just fantasies or threats of it)
Of course, I've never done any of those things during PMS. 😉 As I've tried various fixes for my PMS to no avail, one thing I haven't considered: could PMS just be an excuse for my sin?
Now, don't get me wrong. PMS isn't all in our heads. There are significant physical changes taking place that seem to take me from being Dr. Mel to making my Mr. want to hide. PMS is a very real challenge in my life. But isn't it like any other temptation? After all, many alcoholics have a genetic predisposition to crave alcohol more than the average Jane. We don't expect Christians with that predisposition to give in to the temptation to drunkenness. Why should it be okay when my hormones are compelling me to pitch a fit, to give in?
I wondered what would happen if I started seeing PMS as a temptation to sin rather than an excuse for it. Even though I consider PMS a real challenge, it's more easily overcome than so many others. I know when the challenge is coming! So many temptations aren't predictable. The Bible advises us to be ready for temptation, so here is my plan of attack:
- Pray for the strength to resist the temptation to be unkind
- Get enough sleep, especially at that vulnerable time of the month
- Keep junk food out of the house during that week
- Chew gum rather than chewing someone out
- Keep up my exercise routine
- Plan fun activities, preferably with people who make me laugh
I don't know if my repentance about giving in to the temptation of PMS will lead God to answer my prayers for relief, but I can't imagine He will answer those prayers if I continue to insist that PMS means Pardon My Sin.
Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.”
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?
In our culture, this message is being communicated with increasing fervor. The drum beat has been taken up by every group, regardless of ethnicity, religious affiliation, political beliefs, or sexual orientation. The thing is, we're all correct. We are ALL doing something wrong.
As tension over these differences increases (and it IS increasing all around the world), I don't believe the answer is to say there is no such thing as right and wrong. After all, that would be suggesting it's WRONG to believe in right and wrong. Don't worry. You haven't ended up in a college philosophy class by mistake. My point is simply this: we will never effect change by trying to convince people to adopt our version of what is right and wrong. We CAN change the world by the solution we offer, however.
Jesus didn't spend his ministry time trying to convince people that sin was sin. Instead, He offered a solution for it: Himself. I remember counseling a young woman who had recently become a Christian. Her concern was that she had to quit doing everything she was currently doing. She felt she had to listen to different music, watch different movies (if she watched them at all), quit going to the same places where her unbelieving friends were and on and on. Not surprisingly, she was not joyful about hearing the Good News! In fact, the Gospel for her was more bad news: she was a sinner and everything she wanted to do was sinful.
If we aren't careful, we can change the Good News into bad news for the people we witness to. Are we spending our time talking about how sinful and wrong people are being? (As if this were news anyway!) Or are we sharing the Savior who gives us the want to and not the have to change our sinful ways.
In his book, The Life of Trust, George Muller shares the story of a godly man who paid for the education of promising young men. One particular college student was known to be a brilliant debater and an unbeliever. The older benefactor invited the young man to live with him while he went to school, and provided all of his meals for him as well. Knowing the young man's desire to take him on in matters of faith, he avoided the discussion for months. Instead, he lovingly served him by making sure he had a warm meal and light to study by each evening. Finally, the young man was so flabberghasted by his benefactor's loving treatment that he asked, "Why are you treating me this way? I don't understand!" The kindly man told him it was because of what Jesus had done for him and if he wanted to know more, he could read the book of John. He did so and came to share the joy his benefactor had in experiencing the Good News.
May the Lord enable us to be loving reminders, not of all we're doing wrong, but all that the Savior has done right for undeserving sinners like us.
If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. (1 Cor. 13:1)