Last Sunday as part of his sermon, our pastor quoted Dietrich Bonhoffer, who wrote that Christians are the only ones who shoot their wounded. This week, a new member of our site asked why Christians are so judgmental and harsh with their friends. Clearly, this is an issue that is crying out to be addressed.
Christians don't want to deal with your sin because they believe that sin is simply not a problem for Christians.
There are a few things going on here that are very much related. It all stems from a tendency by Christians to pretend that temptations do not exist and that they aren't real. This manifests itself in our relations with other Christians who are struggling with temptation. Instead of reacting with compassion, the tendency is to react with harsh judgment because in their minds, your sin is something no reasonable person would ever struggle with. This is a very dangerous idea and it comes straight from the devil himself. The devil wants us to believe that we are so powerful that we could never fall to temptation. Most importantly, from his perspective, is that we must never talk about it, for talking about it is the same as admitting that it is real and has power over us. And so, when you come to another Christian to discuss your problems, you are often greeted with a mixture of rebuke and puzzled indignation.
Christians do not want to deal with your sin because it will force them to take a look at their own deep, dark desires.
Sin and temptation hide and thrive in dark, neglected corners. You cannot overcome them by shutting them into the cellar. There, they will grow wild and unchecked. You overcome temptation by talking about it and sharing it with your close friends. You beat temptation and sin by admitting that it is real and that you need the help of friends and the Holy Spirit. But, if those friends don't walk to talk about your sin and temptation because they don't want to unlock their own cellar, you will get nothing but a harsh rebuke when you try to open up about what you're facing. What man wants to help a friend overcome his problem with pornography when he has his own little problem he is trying to ignore? No, better to send that friend away with some stern words of warning.
Christians don't want to deal with your sin because you should have been stronger. You failed!
There is a related problem. It's fine that we hold Christians up to a higher standard of ethical and moral conduct. It's not fine that we expect Christians to naturally have greater strength and resolve. The temptations of sexual immorality are just as strong for a Christian man as they are for a non-Christian man. Why do we expect the Christian man to have super-human strength to endure it, or some special power to not be affected by it? While each of us strives to walk the narrow road, none of us has an innate ability to resist sin just because we are Christians. Indeed, our temptations may be greater because the devil delights in seeing us fail. If we rely on our strength alone, we will fall to these temptations as surely as the non-Christian. We overcome only through the strength of our friends and the power of the Holy Spirit. But that requires us to admit we need help. If we proudly ignore the problem and pretend we are not tempted, then we have nothing but our own strength and we will surely fail. Our only hope is to humbly admit our temptations and seek help. If our friends turn their back on us and judge us, where can we turn?
The worst mistake any of us can make is to try and overpower sin with our own will and self-control. This is nothing but pride masquerading as self-righteousness. Our pride will allow us to walk unarmed into temptation thinking we will casually brush it aside. We will wade deeper and deeper into it, never allowing ourselves to see the risk, while all the time it grows more powerful inside. Eventually, it bursts forth into horrible sin but we are too late to stop it.
What kind of sin am I talking about? I am talking about a very attractive co-worker who asks to go to lunch. I'm talking about a married Christian who is so proud and so certain that they would never give into the temptation that they go and never question it. When lunch becomes a late work session at their house, they deny all indications that there is anything wrong with this because they could never be tempted and would never do anything so wicked. Soon, they are in the arms of their co-worker and it is too late. Their pride has become their downfall. But what happens next? They confide in their Christian friends about what they have done and ask for support, but those friends respond with shock and horror because they themselves would never do such a thing! They are judged and shunned and have nowhere to turn. I have seen this pattern again and again.
All of this comes about because we are too proud to admit that temptation affects all of us and sin is a real threat each and every day. We need to respond to temptation with humility and ask the Holy Spirit to protect us and give us strength. We need to avoid all temptation and never place ourselves in compromising positions. More than anything, we need to react to our brothers and sisters with compassion and understanding, not harsh judgment. We need to get real about our sins and temptations, with ourselves and with each other. When we do this, we can come together and rob Satan of one of his most powerful weapons.
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