I have argued that sin is a disease (see part one of this series). Sins, the wrong things we do, are the symptoms of the disease. My disease is that my heart is utterly corrupt. My symptoms are the wrong things my heart leads me to do. As Christians we are forgiven our sins, but we are still sinful.
Focusing on the symptoms of sin, rather than the disease, will lead me towards legalism. Christians have rightly understood the evils of alcohol, the dangers of smoking, the pitfalls inherent in our culture and society which is moving further and further away from the gospel. There are dangers in our culture: in the movies we watch, the TV shows that we view, in the way that we dress, and so on. A right concern about such things however has led at times to Christians making up rules that can become legalistic: for example, a woman must wear a dress, and not pants. These rules fail in the end, because they treat the symptoms, and not the disease (cf ).
The disease of sin is treated by preaching the gospel and teaching the word of God. Rules merely treat the symptoms. How does all this affect how I view other Christians?
If I have, as a Christian, an approach to sin that focuses on the symptoms of sin rather than the disease, then my wrong emphasis upon ‘sins’ will affect how I look at other Christians. I may be tempted even to think that I am without sin. I may be able to run down my check-list of sins and say that I am currently living God’s way. My heart will still be utterly corrupt, but I will be focusing on the symptoms of various sins and not the disease within me. I may therefore have an entirely wrong view of myself before God.
But I may also have a wrong view of my fellow Christians. If I approach sin based on its symptoms, I may view my fellow Christians through the lens of my check-list of sins. If they don’t measure up to my list I may be judgemental towards them, thinking that they are living a particularly ‘sinful’ life. The problem however is that I have misunderstood the nature of sin.
I am utterly sinful. My sin, the disease of my heart (as an experienced Christian), is no different from the disease of sin in a baby-Christian, or in a Christian who has not yet repented of various ‘gross’ sins (in my eyes). I am just as sinful as they are. I don’t need to ‘cut them some slack’ and wait till they change and catch up with me (though that would be good). I need to recognise that I am as thoroughly corrupt in heart as they are. I might express the symptoms of my disease differently to how they express theirs, but we have the same disease. Therefore I will approach them with humility and grace.
Judgementalism is an ugly sin in Christians. I believe we can repent of this sin by having a right view of sin itself. When I realise that my disease is the same as others, including non-Christians, then I will think far less highly of my own Christian walk, and will approach others with far greater compassion and humility.
We must repent of sin, not just sins. May God’s Sprit work in us as we sit under the word of God to help us to repent and become more and more like Jesus.
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23 These have indeed an appearance of wisdom in promoting self-made religion and asceticism and severity to the body, but they are of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh.