ANDALUSIA, Ala., January 19, 2014 – Many people of faith seem to have this drive to go out and tell people all about their sins – not their own sins, mind you, but about the sins of others. Sometimes it seems as if there is a reflex in the hearts of the faithful, one that compels us to point out other folks’ wrongdoings and shortcomings.
This is not a good illustration of Jesus’ command to love one another, nor does it give Christians a good reputation among many factions of non-believers. While it’s true that a glowing reputation here on earth is not the end game in Christianity, if we are to go out into the world, spreading the good news and trying to win hearts and minds and souls for God, then perhaps a good reputation can be a valuable tool.
Maybe approaching people in a sin-attack mode right off the bat is A: not the best way to help build that reputation, and B: not the most effective way to win those hearts and souls after all. Go back to the essence of the biggest command of all; love God, and love one another. One potential problem in all this is that we are also commanded to turn away from sin.
Though the vast majority of the verses dealing with this construct are directed at one turning away from one’s own sin, lots of people have latched onto the idea of turning away from the sins of others, rejecting sin in general. This is all well and good, but when it becomes a matter of seeking sin such to point it out in others, it becomes more of a sport and less of a means to bring people closer to God.
There are many ideas about what causes people to do this, but a fear of being disingenuous – a fear of being thought of as accepting someone’s sin, and therefore not a genuine Christian – seems to be a driving force. We need to remember that tolerance and endorsement are not the same thing. No one becomes less of a Christian, less authentic in their conviction, less sincere in their faith, by tolerating sin in others.
Yes, there is a time and a place – and a way – to talk to someone about how they are sinning, but it’s not all the time and everywhere – and by way of berating them to death about it. That kind of approach alienates people from one another, and all but guarantees that the attacked party will not engage in any meaningful way. Again, if the purpose is to reach someone and help them turn away from sin, this approach is not going to make that happen. Instead, we should focus on loving one another. The bible teaches us to do so, in the way that Christ loves us.
This means we should love each other compassionately, accepting and tolerating each other’s shortcomings. That way, when the time does come to address sin with each other, it will be under the umbrella of a welcoming spirit, and genuine brotherly love, which sounds like a much better venue for positive change. Such an approach is not only gentle and balanced; it also is genuinely Christ-like and builds relationships, rather than alienating them. What more could you ask for?
“Therefore welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God.” —Romans 15:7