We often concentrate a great deal on the sins of unbelievers getting washed clean at the moment of salvation, but we don’t like to talk very much about what happens after that. In theology, we talk about the process of sanctification, which is basically the process of becoming holy—to become more and more like Christ as we allow Him to work in our lives.
And so in order to attain that, we learn to be “good Christians.” We are taught to avoid the things of the world so that we do not fall into temptation, or to flee from temptation when we come face to face with it. However, while we like to harp a lot about all the preventive measures of what not to do—which, don’t get me wrong, is good because prevention is still better than cure—we seriously need to do a better job at addressing the fact that Christians sin.
Christians sin all the time and we need to learn to deal with it properly. Becoming a Christian does not make us immune to sin. That is one very big misconception that we must get straight. In fact, we are bound to be faced with even more temptations than before we enter into the Kingdom of God, because the devil is always looking for ways to make God’s people rebel against Him. We need to be on a constant lookout not to sin, and we also need to stop being shocked when Christians sin.
The problem with church culture today is that we have painted a very pretty picture of Christianity and we want to keep it that way. We do everything we can to keep our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ out of sin because we like things to be about cotton candy and daisies. God forbid that anyone of us could possibly do anything to disgrace the church or God’s name. Choi choi choi! Let’s not talk about such things!
The repercussions of such a narrow-minded attitude can be quite detrimental. Not only does the church become ill equipped and incapacitated to help people through times of struggle with sin, but the Christians who do sin end up becoming so ashamed that they either fight a very difficult battle on their own, or turn away from the church and God completely.
When the Christian community can do nothing but helplessly look at them with scorn and disgust, they either become so filled with self-loathing and guilt, which leads to self-destruction, or they turn to the people who tell them, “Psshh, it’s not a sin. We accept you and your decisions. Forget what God thinks.”
Scary; but true. This is happening in churches all over the world. How do we deal with it? The first thing we have to remember is that Christianity is not pretty and was never meant to be pretty. Contrary to popular belief or our personal preferences as to how we want to view our faith, Jesus made it very, very clear that He came to seek and save the lost (Luke 9:10). For as long as He was on earth, He stayed far away from the pretty picture (a.k.a. the Pharisees), and chose instead to hang out with the fishermen, tax collectors, and prostitutes.
God recognized the depravity of man, and that is why He had to send Jesus to His death—a very bloody and messy death. Once again, the very foundation of our faith is not based on a fluffy, happy story, but one that is about a Father whose wrath against sin was so intense that He sent His own Son to be tortured and crucified on a Roman cross alongside criminals, so that His scars and wounds could redeem a race of wretched souls from eternal damnation.
That is the ugly truth. The gospel is not exactly the kind of story you would want to tell a child to sooth him or her from a nightmare. However, that is not the end of the story. In the words of the apostle Paul, “Thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 15:57). It is in the gruesome and painful truth of the gospel that we find true beauty—beauty that gave birth to love, grace, and mercy despite the perversities of this world.
What does this mean for the believer who sins? Nothing more than it means for just any other believer, because we all sin. In God’s eyes, a sin is a sin. There is no distinction between lying about the chicken tasting good and cheating on one’s wife. When we accept Jesus as Lord and Savior, our slate is wiped clean once and for all, and we become born again into new life with Christ. Every time God looks at us, He looks at us with love, because He sees Jesus in our place. No matter how many times we screw up, we remain cleansed in His sight.
Nevertheless, this is no excuse to remain in sin or to freely sin without thought of consequences. God may be merciful and loving, but He is still just. He will never inflict guilt upon us because guilt comes from the devil and seeks to destroy, but He will convict us to repent because sin separates us from full communion with God. When we sin, we suppress the Holy Spirit, and when we suppress the Holy Spirit, it is impossible to grow in our relationship with Christ.
This is why the church is important. The church is a community of sinners who have been saved by grace. Having experienced God’s grace over our lives, should we not be all the more accepting when our brothers and sisters falter? The church should be the first place that sinners run to; not from. It ought to be a safe haven for all who seek redemption and forgiveness from the Lord, and communion with other believers. It is there to hold us accountable when we are walking with the Lord, and to become our support system when we fail.
Seek to live a life of righteousness. God does not expect us to not sin, but He does expect us to be obedient to Him and work toward holiness. We are just as sinful and deserving of condemnation today as we were the day we decided to call Jesus “Lord.” The only difference is that we have a mediator who has offered Himself to stand between us and God’s wrath so that we also can be called blameless.
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