It was implied of Jesus and his disciples, on one occasion, that they were too tolerant. “Why does your teacher eat with publicans and sinners?” So inquired the Pharisees asked in Matthew 9:10-13. Jesus quieted them by saying, “they that be whole need not a physician but they those who are sick.” Jesus had the uncanny ability to see through sin, beholding the sinner’s heart and soul.
Admittedly, there was the day during my lifetime when all too many of us who called ourselves Christians were altogether too “pharisaical.” Tolerance was not one of our better qualities. We found sin to be disgusting and so we easily and readily repudiated sinners. Our self-righteousness could not even stand a hint of sin in those with whom we associated. As Christians, we were ignorant of the fact that “love covers a multitude of sins” (1 Peter 4:8). Love’s view is not impeded by sin, for it is, like Jesus, moved by the worth of a soul. How good it is to see maturing among us. More and more of us are seeing people as God’s creatures, and are not being blinded by the ugly sins of those people. We are finally beginning to realize that “this little gospel light of mine” shines best in darkness. Now we are better able to reach out to people with the gospel because we could see past repulsive sin to that valuable God given soul underneath.
But the pendulum swings!
I’m terribly concerned! Along with this maturing trend of tolerance towards sinners, we are carelessly developing a trend toward the toleration of their sin. Never will sin be acceptable! Even though we have heard many ignorantly suggest to the contrary, Jesus was not tolerant toward the adulteresses’ sin (John 8:1-12). “Do not sin anymore,” he told her, and I’m certain she did not leave his presence believing him to be soft on sin. He loved the sinner, but he tolerated not her sin. He called her immorality just what it was — SIN! Sin separates us from God (Isaiah 59:1-2), it always has, and it always will. It is the killer of hope (Romans 6:23) placing our eternal destiny in jeopardy!
Somehow, we do not seem quite capable of distinguishing between sin and the sinner. Today’s church seems to feel that tolerance toward sinners requires, yea, even demands that we tolerate their sin. NOT SO! Their sins ought not keep us from seeing the worth of their soul, BUT WE CANNOT MINIMIZE SIN IN THE PROCESS. Jesus thought sin was so serious that he died on the cross to take care of it.
The church must, if it is to perpetuate man’s hope of heaven, develop both the love and courage of Jesus. We must love sinners and courageously say, “don’t sin anymore.” Do something about your sins the Lord’s way. We must abandon the insipid word, “mistake,” as we have so generously have come to characterize sin. Let’s courageously call pre-marital, and extra marital sex sin. Let’s call out sin the way Paul does in Romans 1, listing the sins of immorality, homosexuality, hatred, envy, wickedness, murder, strife, deceit, evil-mindedness, disobedient to parents . . .. yet do it with a loving spirit emphasizing that THERE IS HOPE AS LONG AS THERE IS PENITENCE.
Are you concerned?
Adapted from Charles Garner, Via Lake Forest church of Christ
Most of us know the truth of this article. Some of us struggle with being too lenient, or not lenient enough. Jesus knew how to rebuke because he could see the person’s heart — yet, we can’t tell if there is true penitence until we see the manner of life of the offender. We must give others the benefit of the doubt unless we see them engaging in this wrong behavior and failure to repent of the sin. Truly, let us be like Jesus and love enough to correct, and love enough to give hope.
THE DANGER OF HARD HEARTS
God inspired Paul to write Ephesians 4:17-19, “This I say, therefore, and testify in the Lord, that you should no longer walk as the rest of the Gentiles walk, in the futility of their mind, having their understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God, because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart; who, being past feeling, have given themselves over to lewdness, to work all uncleanness with greediness.
Paul warned the brethren in Ephesus concerning “those walking as the rest of the gentiles walk, in the futility of their minds. ”
All that is good and proper begins in the mind; likewise, all that is evil and sinful begins in the mind. Obviously, Paul warned that the mind is the place where we will justify wrongdoing and sin. In our minds, the sinner will engage in sin without guilt, as well as belittle anyone who would dare charge them with anything. As a man or a woman continues down this path, they become darkened through ignorance. They might have once looked for the truth, but no longer. Their hearts become petrified as a stone. They lose all sensation of feeling, including guilt, and nothing bothers them at all.
Satan will use these things to attack even more, and trials and difficulties are so bad that the one suffering blames God for all they are going through. They turn from him; they will not listen; they are too wise (in worldly ways) to believe that there is a God who even cares about them.
No one becomes a great sinner all at once. At first there is remorse and regret for what they have done. Their conscience is pricked, and they want to make things right. If they put this off, however, then it may be forgotten, and while they are conscience of their deeds, they will not make the effort to make amends for the sins they have committed. Slowly, their conscience becomes seared, and they dare anyone to challenge them for what they have done. They lose the sensation that something is wrong, and over time guilt is lessened to the point that they cannot “feel guilty” anymore. Their hearts grow hard. Then the sinner does not care about public opinion (or even private opinion by those who are trying to get them to repent of their sin) so long as he/she can get their desires. They become slaves to their desires, and they don’t care who they may hurt as long as their desires are satisfied.
It becomes very hard to get them back from these self-destructive tendencies to which they will go. They will seek the works of the flesh in any way to get what they want. God is forgotten; his word is a whisper they shrug off or ignore, and warnings from concerned friends and loved ones are dismissed with, “Mind your own business” . . . “you don’t have the right to judge me” . . . “I will do with my life whatever I want” . . . and hearts are broken. Consider how God’s heart is broken for those whom he has created as they voluntarily turn away from the truth and believe Satan and his lies. The call of the gospel is not heard as it may once have been; they turn their backs on God, yet expect him, when Judgment day comes, to allow them a home in heaven with Him.
Their life is all about the here and now. Once they have tried everything that this world can offer, they still will find that there is something missing. So they may take their own lives. They may curse God for everything that they have been through (as if it is God’s fault for letting them suffer that way).
Sin truly does destroy everything it touches. How can God’s people engage in sin in their own lives, or sanction it in the lives of those whom they love?
Don’t become hard hearted! Listen to the Lord and His word, and ask God for the strength to obey.
(Much of this article was adapted from William Barclays, Letter to Galatians and Ephesians, Daily Study Bible, Westminster Press, Philadelphia, PA cd 1976. Pps 151-154,)