I was recently asked a number of questions about comments that were made to an article about a pastor in the SBC pastor who had preached a sermon in response to his son’s revealing that he was gay. You can find the article here. My responses to the comments may have very little to do with the original article, at least not directly.
Comment #4: I need grace as much as any other person. So why would I ever single out the sin of another to condemn them?
I agree with this comment, on the face of it.
We need to remember a few things: First, God made us. He is God, we are not. We live and move and have our being in his realm and under his good pleasure. We exist for him, not he for us. We exist to make him glorious, to serve him, to worship and adore him, to lay down our lives for him, and to help one another to do this more effectively and more abundantly.
Second, we hate hearing this. We want what we want. We want to do what we want to do. We’ll do whatever we can get away with, for as long as we can get away with it. We’ll push on the moral boundaries that God has set up until we convince one another that those boundaries have moved or until we convince ourselves that God doesn’t care. The easiest way to do these is to try to convince ourselves that God doesn’t exist at all. Therefore, we work very hard to convince ourselves that God doesn’t exist at all.
The difficult thing about this second remembrance is that though we work our tails off trying to get away from God, the fact that the first remembrance is true always rears its beautiful head and smacks us upside ours. We can’t get away from the fact that God exists and that he has created the world in a particular way. We try to get around it by creating and trusting in science. We think science has explained everything, but we know, down in our dark little hearts, that science merely describes what we see, but does not actually explain what we see. We think that if we can more precisely and carefully we talk about a phenomenon, we have somehow taken it out of the realm of magic, but all we’ve really done is to make the magic more amazing.
Then there is always the nagging question; so what? That brings us back to the fact that we know that God exists and that he has a plan for how things are supposed to work. So what if the moon causes gravity? So what if two little tiny cells get together and create a new person? So what if light travels really really fast? At the end of the day, what difference does that make in how I live my life with my fellow human beings? It doesn’t. It’s a distraction from what is central to our existence.
Third, the Bible lays out God’s plan for life for us in a pretty simple way. This is a fact that is difficult to get around. God gave two commandments: Love God with all your life and your neighbor as yourself. Simple. Then he gave ten commandments, which are pretty much a short expansion of the first two. Then he gave a longer explanation of those commandments. But in all of this, the first two still governed and ruled. All the others were expansions on the first two. If we love God with all our hearts, minds, souls, and strength and we love our neighbors as ourselves, we won’t have any trouble with the rest of them.
Fourth, if all we had was #1 above, all would be well. We would not need this fourth point. But #2 exists and so the law was given to help rebellious and self-centered man know that this is true of him. When someone in authority gives a rebel a command, the rebel immediately breaks it. It doesn’t matter what the command is. If the leader says, love your wife, the rebel says, “Oh yeah, who died and left you God?” If the leader says, don’t take your friends stuff, the rebel says, “I’ll do what I want and take what I want and who do you think you are telling me what to do?”
The law points out the sin, and makes the sin more sinful. If the commands had stayed with just the two, a fellow who stole his sister’s lunch money, might say, “no one said anything about stealing.” But when God included not stealing to the list, it was much more evident that the fellow was sinning. And it made the sin, along with all the other things he was doing more sinful. Instead of just sinning against the second command, now he is sinning against the second, the seventh, and whatever else he was doing.
Fifth, people who are in rebellion against God want to feel good about themselves no matter what they are doing. In the case of the fellow who stole his sister’s lunch money, everyone besides him can see that what he did was wrong. No one would say that what he did was right, except for the fellow who stole it. But what if there were extenuating circumstances? What if he had spent his money days earlier and was really really hungry? He might come to his mother and beg her not to be angry with him. “Can’t you see how hungry I am?” And she would think to herself how horrible it would be to be him. She might think about how, if she were him, she might be tempted to steal her daughter’s lunch money just like he did. And so rather than “judge,” or “condemn” him, she might soften and let him go. But if she did that justice would be gone. Right would be wrong and wrong right. She would have forgotten right and wrong, good and evil and would have flipped all of life on its head. If the mother gave in, she would have joined in the evil of the fellow who stole the money in the first place. Justice is primarily about dealing with wrong things. And that should be primary. But if he got away with his act, or if he what he did was encouraged, what would keep him from stealing again? What would keep the other family members from stealing from one another? Or from someone outside their family? What would keep the threat of someone stealing one brother’s lunch money from turning into the need to protect his money and from escalating into armed conflict? What would keep the fellow from becoming a thief? (A fellow who stole something once is not necessarily a thief, but one who steals as a way of life, certainly is a thief.) And don’t forget poor Sally is now very hungry.
This is where our culture and society is. We have a whole world of people who want to do whatever they want to do. When anyone points out that what they have done is wrong, they either point at all the extenuating circumstances; go limp, acting like the victim; play the judge or condemn cards; blame the system or the one pointing out the wrong; talk and act like what they did was really a good and right thing; or all of the above. But the results are just like the family that was stealing the sister’s lunch money. The whole gang is going down the tubes because they all need to protect themselves from one another and at the same time, they can’t say anything “bad” about the others because everyone wants to do what is right in their own eyes. To point out the evil of the other, is to unleash a tirade about the evil they are doing.
This is likely where the comment comes from, “I need grace as much as any other person. So why would I ever single out the sin of another to condemn them?” We all need grace. This is absolutely true. Jesus died on a cruel cross as an act of grace for us. He took our punishment because we need grace. So come to Jesus and receive grace. Stop sinning against God. Start living for God. Stop breaking his commands. Submit to God and live. Be free. Be shameless. Be blameless. Be guiltless. He can take it all away.
I agree that it would be wrong to single out the sin of another in order to condemn them. But telling someone that their life is being lived in rebellion against God and they are in serious danger, is not the same thing at all. It is actually to love them. To warn someone who is heading toward the edge of a cliff that they can’t see because of their perspective, is not an evil thing. In fact, to not warning someone who you knew was in danger, would be the evil thing.
It would be good to point out here that one sin does not condemn a person to Hell. Rather, the rebellious heart that reveals itself in myriad sins condemns a person to Hell. If you are reading this and you are angry with me for what I’m saying, I would guess it is because I am pushing a bruise. You know you are in rebellion and refuse to do what God wants you to do. You won’t even do the things he wants to you to do that are fun—for example, love your wife, like Christ loved the church, who gave up his life for her to cleanse her and to make her glorious. Who doesn’t want a glorious and beautiful wife? The one who refuses to live this way because someone greater told him to.
The Christian, who stands with Jesus, obeying God, is not condemning anyone. The rebellious heart, showing itself in sinful and evil actions, that is what condemns. But Jesus’ death made it so that that rebellious heart can not only be changed, but the relationship with God can be restored. God’s wrath can be turned away and he will smile on you and fill you with joy.