Monday, June 21, 2010

Dealing with Public Sins

I recently watched a movie called “Hardball” about a guy in Chicago who agrees to coach a little league baseball team for money to pay a gambling debt. The team and league he coaches is in the ghetto of Chicago and because the movie is true to the setting with the language and violence I wouldn’t exactly call it a family movie. And I wasn’t crazy that the main character got out of his gambling debt with one last big gambling win. Gambling is never the answer to get out of gambling. However, in one of the practice scenes he is hitting infield/outfield to the team and one of the players is heckling other players every time they make a mistake. So the coach hits a line-drive at this kid who hits the deck getting out of the way of it. Then the coach says something to the effect of; “He just ducked away from that ball like a sissy and none of you guys have anything to say after the way he laughed at you? From now on, no one says anything negative to another player on this team!” This kid was publicly mocking others and was dealt with in a public manner. He never mocked another teammate I can tell you that!

When it comes to dealing with public sin we can learn a lesson from this story, to a degree. By public sin I mean someone who is living a sinful lifestyle for all the world to see and telling the world that what they are doing is okay. Of course I am talking about those who claim to be followers of Christ but defiantly live in sin justifying it. I am also talking about any sin that is put on public display and touted as the norm and no longer a sin. How do we properly respond to that?

Well with the individual you can try to deal with it privately. Calling them aside and reminding them that what they are doing is in fact not okay with the Scripture or Lord they claim to be a follower of. It they confess, repent, and ask God forgiveness then great, what a victory for the Kingdom! If not and they continue to make a public spectacle of their sin(s) then they must be confronted publicly. Why? Because they are taking this thing public and telling others its okay when its not, and those watching them claim to be okay need to see the truth. Now you need to make sure that if God is calling you to address this publicly that you have your own house in order so no one can accuse you of the whole, speck in your brother’s eye with a plank in your own thing. You must be willing to and have addressed your own shortcomings first.

A recent example of this is a Christian musician who came out of the closet about being a gay and having had a partner for several years. It’s one thing to admit a lifestyle choice but they are trying to promote it as okay with Scripture. They raise the point as to why homosexuality is the one sin the church seems to be harping on. “What separates that sin out from the fact that I am angry or mad at someone?” “Why is that so grievous to you that we have to sit here and have this conversation?” I would answer that and say this sin is being separated out by the homosexual community, not the Church. The homosexual community is trying to convince others that this is no longer a sin, but it is. It always has been and always will be. No one is trying to force the Church to accept angry violence as not a sin. But someone is trying to force this issue, and sadly, some churches have given in on the issue and no longer call it sin. Homosexuality is the example used here, but the message applies to any sin being lived and justified publicly.

The point here is not to publicly humiliate the sinner. But when the sinner takes the discussion onto the public stage it has to be refuted there. We can’t let them lead others astray without sharing the truth. The passage where Jesus says, “He who is without sin cast the first stone,” (Matt. 8:1-11) is their favorite to throw at Christians. But, He was talking about physical punishment on this woman who was caught in adultery. He wasn’t talking to people who were just calling adultery sin; they wanted to kill this woman! He simply reminded them that if she deserved death, so did everyone of them. He never disputed what she was doing was a sin. As a-matter-of-fact, He Himself called it sin when He said, “Go and sin no more.” He didn’t stop them from calling it sin, He stopped them from condemning her; there is a difference.

So the point isn’t to condemn the sinner, but to lovingly call sin what it is and then try to lead the sinner into asking forgiveness, and repenting. But remember, you are only responsible for the stand you take, not the response they make; and to say nothing is to quietly condone it and condoning it is the least loving thing of all to do to a sinner.

Talk to me,