We live in very strange times. Actions and behaviors that were only a few years ago considered to be wrong by the majority are now defended as normal. Scientific studies are cited showing why what once was wrong now can be considered not only acceptable, but good. This is not a new phenomenon, but has been happening for quite a few years as our society continues a slow but steadily increasing slide into moral decay.
From time to time, a particular sin is held up to the public eye, repackaged as acceptable with emotional slogans, and sold to society as something updated or new. The dangers are hidden or downplayed, and the sin becomes normalized. When this happens, the Christian Church must respond. Some have responded by embracing the sin to the destruction of God’ Word and the souls of their members. Churches that continue following God’s Word teach their members why this sin is still a sin. They publicly acknowledge what God’s Word teaches and why they will continue to follow that Word.
But then things get personal. We all probably know someone who has had an abortion, whether we realize it or not. We all probably know a friend or family member who is gay or transgender. We all know couples who have had sex outside of marriage. We all know couples who have divorced without a biblical reason. We all know someone who has let greed become the most important thing in their lives. We all know someone who unapologetically admits to being racist. The list of sins and those who commit them is endless. And we have to include ourselves in those lists. None of us are innocent. It is very easy to see the sins of others, to look at them and point out their faults. But we are reminded that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” So what do we do? How can we expect someone to listen to us about a sin they are committing when we ourselves are guilty of the same or worse sins?
We start with ourselves, recognizing that being a Christian does not make us better than someone else. But it does make us different. We are different because we have been crushed by God’s Law. The sins we embraced have collapsed on us, trapping us in the rubble of our own sinful actions and thoughts. And we are different because our Savior pulled us from this desperate situation and, by God’s grace, saved us. We are not by nature better than others, but we are different. We know the sins being held up as good and normal will eventually crush the person holding them, that they too need a Savior. And so we speak to them about their sins out of love and concern. If a person is caught in some trespass, you who are spiritual should restore such a person in a spirit of humility, carefully watching yourself so that you are not also tempted (Galatians 6:1-2 EHV).
When we shine the light of God’s Word on the darkness of sin, the first reaction is likely very negative. Imagine being sound asleep in a dark room and a light is suddenly switched on and a voice, no matter how gentle, tells us to “wake up.” We are not too pleased at being awakened. When we are comfortable sleeping in our sins, we also are not too pleased when God’s Word wakes us and tells us we are wrong. We may think, “Why are you picking on me? Look at all the other sins in the world—and you are condemning mine?”
It is true that we often are seen, both personally and as a Church, as hypocritical. And it is also true that we often are hypocrites. But it is that imperfect, sinful, hypocritical vessel that God has chosen to bring His Word to others. We tell others of their sins because we know the punishment for those sins—the punishment we ourselves deserve but was suffered by our Savior instead. We know the relief of having the crushing weight of sin being lifted from us and we want everyone to know that relief—knowing the joy of having faith in our Savior, Jesus Christ. Just as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, so we speak, not to please people but God, who examines our hearts. (1 Thessalonians 2:4 EHV)
When a particular sin is held up publicly as normal or good, we have the responsibility to publicly shine the light of God’s Word on that sin. The eternal life of someone else may depend on it.
Rev. Paul Fries