Romans 11:32 reveals one of God’s priorities. “For God has imprisoned everyone in disobedience so he could have mercy on everyone” (NLT). Think about this and read it again in the NIV, “For God has bound everyone over to disobedience so that he may have mercy on them all.”
God loves us so much he sent Jesus to die on the cross for us to deliver us from sin. So what would motivate him to bind us over to disobedience? He answers it himself. He wants to make sure we see his response to our sin, which reveals his heart of mercy. Could it be that our comprehending his mercy is of greater value to him than our sinless perfection? Could he be communicating that without him we are flawed, and our conscious realization of that fact motivates us to gratitude? He doesn’t want us to be weak, but even more, he wants us to know that he is our strength.
20th Century Evangelicalism rightly emphasized the destructive power of sin and its consequences, correctly encouraging all of us to repent. 21st Century Evangelicalism can now build on that foundation and teach us to respond to the sins of others like Christ does. Christ’s response to our sin is redemptive. Therefore, if we in the church start responding to one another’s sins in a redemptive way, we might better communicate the true solution to humankind’s sin problem.
In 2007, while i was in exile in Phoenix, Arizona, a globally known pastor with a large mega-church came to visit me. He said,
Ted, I want to encourage you. I don’t think I would say this to anyone else, but I believe there are two types of sin. One type, the easy type, is the kind we repent of. It’s the kind you have dealt with. The other kind is the kind I have. I have sins that build my ministry, increase my income, and actually cause me to be more respectable in the eyes of the church. They are the kinds of sins we don’t repent of, sins like– me actually believing I know more than others and am a pretty good guy. I believe I have the answers for everyone. I exaggerate church attendance and hype the impact of my ministry in order to encourage supporters. I blame sinners for the things I don’t like, and I condemn people. We don’t repent of these sins because they are respectable. But guys like you get to repent. I envy you. (paraphrased).
This pastor demonstrated to me the point I had observed–those who address sinners in public, appearing to be without sin, often have more grievous sins than the sinner to whom they are addressing. Again, the Bible is true. . . all have sinned. Without question, sin is evil and damaging. We all need to turn from every form of sin in our lives with resolve and not live in them any longer. But based on this Scripture, could it be that our response to another person’s sin reveals more about us than we think? Based on God revealing himself in response to our sin, could it be that our core is revealed by our response to the sins of another? I think so.
Our response to another person’s sin is the #1 way OUR hearts are revealed.
Our response to another person’s sin is the #1 way OUR character is revealed.
Our response to another person’s sin is the #1 indicator of whether we understand the New Testament.
God sent Jesus in response to our sin, revealing God’s essence which is love. The depth of our sin forced a public affirmation of the depth of his redemptive nature. Our weakness gave him opportunity to demonstrate his strength on our behalf. Our rebellion gave him opportunity to prove his love for us.
For us to authentically reflect Christ, we will have to see the sins of another as an opportunity to demonstrate the Gospel rather than use it as an platform to rail against the sins of others and our need to rid the world of evil. It’s just not going to happen because. . . we are the sinners, though gratefully redeemed. We are the broken, though being healed. We must not respond to another’s sin as though we ourselves are not in need of mercy. If we imply self-righteousness in our response to others, we inadvertently deny the fundamentals of the Gospel in us We might have actually become an enemy of the Gospel in the one we are condemning. When we respond with smugness or arrogance, we deny the compassion and love of Christ. I propose instead that when another person sins, we use it as our opportunity to demonstrate that we are, in fact, Christ-like.