‘Christians’ often take great pride is ‘sin calling.’ They often think they are better than others and that it’s their job to point out others faults and sins. I call these people, ‘the sin police.’ The spirit that many people have encountered in some churches is anything but Christlike. This is one dominant reason why many have left the church and have no use for it.
The last time I checked, Jesus loved and defended sinners publicly. He didn’t justify or love their sin, but somehow Jesus made sinners felt loved and welcomed despite their sin. It was that love and acceptance that healed their hearts and allowed them to repent of their sins.
The Kindness of God Leads to Repentance
Recall the woman caught in the act of adultery. The religious leaders called her out for her sin and wanted to stone her. Technically, they were right, the law required her death, but their spirit was completely wrong. Jesus defended her against this mob of angry religious dudes. He risked His life to save hers. What was it that healed her that day? The self-righteousness of the angry religious mob? The shame of being caught red handed? Or was it the love of a Savior who risked His own life and defended her even in the midst of her sin? You see, love always wins. Love and kindness is the only thing that can heal a broken heart.
Oh, how I love my Jesus: socially inappropriate lover of sinners. His love turns us into saints.
This verse explains it aptly. "The kindness of God leads you to repentance." (Romans 2:4 NIV) It's not the anger, justice, wrath, bullying, or even the righteousness of God that leads us to repentance. It's His kindness. It was Jesus' kindness to defend a woman from certain death that led her to repentance. So you see, the spirit of "the sin police" is often not the Holy Spirit. They come with pride, arrogance, comdemnation, verbal stone throwing, etc. and this is the reason why many have left the church. People with these attitudes are the modern day Pharisees. The Church are the one's who should be ashamed or our self-righteous, judgmental, "holier than thou' attitudes. God forgive us. Help us to repent. Teach us genuine kindness, humility, and love.
The church needs to repent of our arrogance, hatred, self-righteousness, and unkindness. When we humble ourselves, recognize that we're all in the same boat...sinners saved by grace, and we treat each other with love and kindness, especially in the midst of sin, the world will come beating on our doors because they want what we have. Ultimately, what leads us to repentance is the love of God, for His love is kind.
How to Correct a Brother or Sister Caught in Sin: Humility and Gentleness
Scripture makes it clear that we are to ‘reprove a brother or sister’ who is sinning but there are guidelines: “Brethren, even if anyone is caught in any trespass, you who are spiritual, restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness; each one looking to yourself, so that you too will not be tempted.” (Galatians 6:1 NASB)
Notice the passage commands believers how to restore other believers: "in a spirit of gentleness." I’ve known many ‘wanna be prophets’ who attempt to correct others, but they do it in anything but a ‘spirit of gentleness.’ In fact, they often do it in a spirit of arrogance, cruelty, and often use demeaning actions or words. So, which is worse? The supposed ‘sinner’ or the proud, cruel, demeaning ‘Christian’ trying to correct him or her? Personally, I find the arrogance and cruelty of the 'sin police' more appalling than the sin of the 'sinner.'
Notice the scripture also commands believers to ‘look to yourself first.’ What does that mean? It means none of us are above falling. It means we're all sinners, so be careful the attitude you use to correct others. Because at any moment, you too can fall prey to sin. What's the key? Humility.
Jesus' Stern Warning
Jesus also gave a stern warning about looking for faults in our brothers and sisters before checking our own life and heart.
“Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye." (Matthew 7:3-5 NIV)
I’ve met many Christians and Pastors in my lifetime who love to correct others. They often do it wrong and with a harsh, condemning spirit, or a attitude of arrogance thus proving themselves the ‘greater sinner.’ Thinking that you are better than someone else ‘because I don’t do what they do,’ is a dangerous attitude. In fact, the Bible calls it pride, and pride is the sin of Satan. The Spirit of God is humble. Scripture commands us to look at our faults first, and humble ourselves, before attempting to correct others. Then and only then, go to your brother or sister in a spirit of ‘gentleness.’
Two Types of Sin
Now that we have determined how to correct ‘those in sin’ let’s define types of sin. There are essentially two types of sin: outward and inward.
1. Outward: these are sins which typically affect oneself or others and can be seen or heard by others. These ‘sins’ can be discovered in your texts, emails, or on your computer. They can typically be observed in how you treat other people in your day to day relationships. Society often harps on the sins we can see, but God makes it clear that the sins which are unseen are equally bad, if not worse.
2. Inward: these are sins of the heart which only the very skilled and observant can see, thus inward. Sins like pride, self-righteousness, greed, and sometimes even lust can be unseen and very hard to spot in the heart of a person, but God can see these sins and He deems them equally if not worse to sins which can be seen.
Proverbs 20:9 NASB says, “Who can say, "I have cleansed my heart, I am pure from my sin?” In other words, our outward actions may seem pure to others, but our heart could still be full of evil motives. God alone sees the condition of the heart and know our motives.
Jesus often called the religious teachers out for their hypocrisies. They dressed up their outward actions and seemed 'holy' to each other and to the masses, but Jesus reprimanded them for their impure hearts and motives such as greed, usuary, and pride. So which is worse? Seen sins (outward) or unseen (inward)? Both are equally evil. Only God can make us completely pure.
Now that we’ve established how to correct our ‘sinning brothers and sisters’ and two types of sin, let’s define sin itself.
What if you went to church this Sunday and the guest speaker was preaching totally nude in the pulpit? What would you think? Would that be sin? (I am not suggesting anyone should do this…lol.)
The Nude Prophet? God told Isaiah to strip naked and prophecy for three years. If we saw a preacher preaching naked today for even one day, most would call it sin. But God told Isaiah to do it. Therefore, who or what defines sin? See Isaiah 20.
The Prophet and Whore? God told another prophet to marry a whore….but society would probably call that sin. Can you imagine a prominent preacher today marrying a whore and telling society “God told me to do it!”? See Hosea 1 and 3.
Father Commanded to Murder His Son? Abraham was told to murder/sacrifice his own son. What if someone today claimed God told him to sacrifice his son….we’d call it sin, but God told Abraham to do it. See Genesis 22:2
Later God changed His mind and sent and angel and commanded Abraham NOT to sacrifice his son. In one moment, God told Abraham to slay his son….in the next he told him to stop. Which is it? Sacrifice or not sacrifice? God sure seems fickle.
The Naked Prophesying King? The Spirit of God even came upon Saul and he stripped naked and prophesied for a day. Was that a sin? See 1 Samuel 19:23-24
You see, God occasionally commands His prophets to do some very unusual and societally unacceptable things. Things which most would call ‘sin,’ God occasionally asks His prophets to do.
What then Defines Sin?
Unbelief and disobedience to God’s voice immediately after He gives a verbal command.
Scripture is intended to be a guideline for right and wrong: sin and righteousness. However, God Himself occasionally commands His prophets to do things which are questionable to society and even contrary to His own written word. It’s almost as if God gives His prophets ‘poetic license’ to do things that others aren’t allowed to do. Be careful with this thought though....I am not giving a license to sin and just because you feel a certain whim does not excuse inapporpriate actions.
What is my point? Nobody is perfect and certainly not sinless. We are also not the judge of what God has told someone else to do. Remember, occasionally God commands His prophets to do some very strange things that most would deem unacceptable. Be careful what you call sin, but ultimately be careful how you correct others. Before you put on your sin police cap and pull our your authoritative badge and go gunninng down the sins of others, make sure you remove the log in your own eye. Make sure you inspect your own heart, life, and attitude first. Then go attempt to correct others in a spirit of love, genuine humility, kindness, and gentleness.