The Value of Sin

Romans 11:32 reveals 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 hates sin in us so much he sent Jesus to die on the cross for us. 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 it’s 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 sin in a redemptive way, we might better communicate the true solution to the sin problem.

Several years ago 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. 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 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 responding. Again, the Bible is true. . . all have sinned. Without question, sin is evil. 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 the essence of God 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 himself.

For us to authentically reflect Christ, we will have to see the sins of another as an opportunity to demonstrate the Gospel rather than using it as an platform to rail against the evils of sin and our need to rid the world of the sinners. 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 and 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 heart 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.

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8 thoughts on “The Value of Sin

  1. chicagoja says:

    I would say it a little different – that sin(evil) is the way that we come to understand God (goodness). How else would we truly appreciate what goodness is?

  2. mharmon1960 says:

    Amen. For too long we have treated the wounded like Goliath and cut off their heads. The mercy we show is the mercy we get!

  3. epicentered says:

    Ted, I love the NLT, but when it comes to the writings of Paul I really love the Message.

    “In one way or another, God makes sure that we all experience what it means to be outside so that he can personally open the door and welcome us back in.” (Romans 11:32)

    I do think the Lord, in his wisdom, allows us to walk in sin – and experience the pain of others sins as well. The result?? We are drawn, become more dependent, and seek the beauty of his holiness, mercy and love.

    Too often though, in a culture where performance is held in high esteem and brokenness shunned, the transforming “experience [of] what it means to be outside” is masked and disorted so we don’t come to the full knowledge of the need for “[him] personally opening the door and welcoming us back in.” (paraphrased from above)

    That said, I am excited to be one who is growing and learning through the tender mercies of our living God. May all of our hearts and character continue to be revealed as ones of authentic Christ followers and may our understanding of New Testament life become become our banners of love.

    Great message Ted! Keep them coming!

    • Thank you so much. I hear you, but there is one thought that is popular but doesn’t fit the meaning of this verse, and the Message paraphrase misses it. The pivotal idea is not that God “allows” sin for a reason, but that God has “imprisoned” (NLT), “bound” (NIV), “shut up” (NASB), “concluded” (KJV), “committed” (NKJV) all of us to disobedience. That’s significantly different that “allowing” it, and this is an extremely difficult idea for all of us who are modern evangelicals because God is taking the action. It would be more acceptable to us if this were written about non-believers, but it’s written to the believers in Rome. This idea is so radical that Paul follows it with the verses that are often quoted, “Oh, how great are God’s riches and wisdom and knowledge! How impossible it is for us to understand his decisions and his ways! For who can know the LORD’s thoughts. . . ” However, most who quote the following verses have never seriously contemplated the idea that caused Paul to exclaim about the riches of God’s wisdom. I think, though, if we don’t think about this context revealing God’s supreme desire to create situations where his mercy can be revealed, then we will misunderstand God’s response to the sins of others and thus, we will respond in ways that are counter productive to the Gospel. Since we are to be like Christ, we need to seriously think about the New Testament response to sinners and the New Testament solution to the sin problem. I think the first paragraph in Romans 2 also deals with this big idea. Thanks for your comments. I appreciate the discussion.

      • epicentered says:

        I hear you Ted. I guess my word, “allows” dampened the message which wasn’t my intent. I agree that the Lords ways are certainly higher than our own and grasping the depth of what Paul is trying to say as difficult as it is profound.

  4. Rod Arters says:

    Great thoughts… I agree. Our response to those who have fallen reveal a lot about our own falleness and our identity with it. It is instructive in John 8 that the older men walked away first. Those who have been around longer should be in tune with their many faults and sins and realize just how quickly they can become the fallen, even again.

    I have written a few blog posts that speak to this: http://rodarters.wordpress.com/2012/05/27/ive-fallen-and-cant-get-up/ AND http://rodarters.wordpress.com/2012/07/20/the-dark-knight-rises-indeed/ in particular. Thank you for bringing the issue to the forefront.

  5. Long ago, when you lived on the other said, you taught me something that I have kept very close to my heart over all those many years. You said… “The greatest mark of a person’s character is how they handle someone else’s sin”

  6. “If God seems to be in no hurry to make the problem of evil go away, maybe we shouldn’t be, either. Maybe our compulsion to wash God’s hands for him is a service he doesn’t appreciate. Maybe — all theodicies and nearly all theologians to the contrary — evil is where we meet God. Maybe he isn’t bothered by showing up dirty for his dates with creation. Maybe — just maybe — if we ever solved the problem, we’d have talked ourselves out of a lover.”
    Robert Farrar Capon

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