Wednesday, February 17, 2010

How to Live in a World Stained by Sin

Although they know God's righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them. You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge the other, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things.
Romans 1:32-2:1

Not long after my wife and I were married we had a laundry mishap. We thought it safe to wash a blue t-shirt of mine with my whites because it had been washed before, or so we thought. Needless to say, all of my white t-shirts and socks came out of the wash a sort of light blue gray. They weren't really very usefull to me after that. Our world is kind of like that load of laundry. Sin has been thrown in the mix and now everything is colored by it. Nothing in this world has remained untouched by the stain of sin. Yet, Scripture says that we are to live holy lives, lives that are unstained and pure white. How do we do that? How do we live as Christians in a world that is so stained by sin? This passage offers three pieces of advice.

First, we are commanded to stop living the way we used to live before we met Jesus. There ought to be a noticeable difference between us and the rest of the world. It's not just that the blood of Jesus has removed our stain; it is also that he has changed our hearts. As people with new hearts, we ought to live differently. 1 Peter 2:11 puts it this way, "Dear friends, I urge you, as aliens and strangers in the world, to abstain from sinful desires, which war against your soul." We are called to live lives that are completely foreign to the world we used to feel so comfortable in.

Second, this passage tells us clearly that we shouldn't approve of sin. Other versions of the Bible interpret this as "take pleasure in" instead of "approve," which I think is a helpful distinction. I fear that sometimes as Christians we allow the devil to convince us that we are really missing out on all the fun things everyone else is doing. We find ourselves living vicariously through the sin of others. We listen to their recounting of their behavior and salivate at every juicy detail. This is a betrayal of our new nature in Christ. Obviously, we are not supposed to remain in a little Christian bubble all the time and never spend time with non-believers. Christ did not do this. He ate with sinners and prostitutes all the time (Mark 2:13-17). But we need to be careful not to approve of, encourage or revel in other people's sin.

Third, it is clear also that we should not judge other people. Paul says that, "at whatever point you judge the other, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things." We are just as guilty of sin as anyone else is. Paul goes on to tell the Jews that they teach God's law but do not practice it. They teach others not to commit adultery, then they commit adultery. They teach others not to steal, then they steal. It is the same with us. We have all fallen short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23), so we cannot judge. Only our righteous God can.   

So what does this leave us with? Well we must avoid sin because it is not glorifying to God. We have been cleansed from the stain of sin and are called to live lives in keeping with our new found purity. And while it is not our job to judge others, we are also called not to take pleasure in their sin. This balance between not judging and not approving is hard to find. Many people will accuse you of judging if you don't actively approve of their behavior, while others feel the need to verbally disapprove of everything. It is a delicate balance. May God give you wisdom. Look to Christ as your example.

For further reading...
   - Matthew 7:1-6 & 15-20: See if you can find the balance between not
      judging and "knowing them by their fruit."
   - I Peter 1:13-21, 2:11-12 & Hebrews 11:13-16: Aliens & Strangers.
   - I Samuel 2:12-17, 22-36, & 4:12-18: See how Eli's approval and eventual
      participation in his son's sins led to the demise of the priestly line of

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