Every congregation will have its view on what makes a sin terrible and what isn’t so bad.
But what tends to happen is that the most common sins, the ones that are possibly seen as being smaller sins, become acceptable sins and are overlooked and ignored.
Is this okay?
Aren’t all sins wrong, surely bad actions are not acceptable?
1. This view makes a sin terrible and unforgivable in some churches.
Have you noticed that when certain ‘sins’ are mentioned there is a sharp intake of breath and many take a literal step back?
These are the sort of sins that will stop you from becoming a member, or make you unable to remain in the church.
Is a divorce or an affair unforgivable?
Here is a real-life example:
One day Paul and Gill (names changed) started to attend the church, and everyone was pleased to see two new faces in the congregation.
Everything was going well, but then they said that they were remarried and an awful silence descended on the church!
It was just too much for the congregation to cope with.
It broke right into their taboo area.
Everyone was ‘accepted’ as long as they stayed out of the ‘taboo area’, which in this church was divorce, homosexuality, immorality and other things like the wearing of baseball caps, body piercings, etc!
The new couple had broken the rules – even though it had happened years ago and had been worked through with each other and with the Lord.
Paul and Gill could never be truly accepted into the church family, so after a while, they left.
The ‘ethos’ of the church generally comes from the leader or leaders, and they are responsible for how the ‘flock’ is looked after, or not, and then the congregation often carries out the cold-shouldering, etc.
The fact of whether they had been forgiven by God or not, wasn’t the issue for this congregation and minister.
The problem was solely that they had been divorced.
The Rev Dr David Instone-Brewer, an Honorary Research Fellow in Rabbinics and the New Testament, at Tyndale House, Cambridge UK comes to this conclusion regarding whether it is okay to get divorced:
- Broken marriage vows are the grounds for divorce, where a spouse does not fulfil the vows.
- Broken marriage vows include adultery, abuse and abandonment.
- Only the victim, not the perpetrator of such sins, should decide about divorce.
- Anyone who divorces on biblical grounds or who is divorced against their will can remarry.
See the article: ‘Can Christians divorce and remarry?‘
Is homosexuality, changing gender, etc unforgivable?
When I look at Jesus, I do not see a dogmatic person.
The only situations where Jesus points out sin directly to people, was when he was speaking to the hypocritical religious leaders, and the reason he went in hard, was because they, the ones that should have been teaching the way to heaven, were stopping people from entering the Kingdom of God.
Jesus went to many parties where there would have been all sorts of unrighteous, sinful people, but we do not see him highlighting particular sins within the guests and speaking out against them.
He chose to be ‘the friend of sinners’, not to join in with what they were doing, but so he could show by his life a better way of living.
He did not push people into a corner with the law of God and expose their failings.
Jesus taught in a non-aggressive, non-confrontational way and seemed to only tackle particular sins within people when they approached him.
For example, the rich young ruler (Luke 18), the woman caught in adultery (John 8) and the woman at the well (John 4).
Many would say that the Bible is totally against homosexuality, but if we are not careful it becomes a dogmatic subject, laws can be thrust at people like drawn swords and people get wounded and thrown aside.
The church needs to show the world a better way.
The church has for many years slammed the Gay community with the Law.
But the world looks at the church and sees that it is judgmental against the Gay community and that many churches appear blind to their own sins of greed, lies, lust, materialism, etc.
I think that it is important for the church to show the world a better way, but unfortunately, at times, the world sees a hypocritical, legalistic community.
Does Leviticus state that homosexuality is wrong?
The discussion centres on a verse from the Old Testament in Leviticus:
“If a man lies with a male as with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination; they shall surely be put to death; their blood is upon them.”Leviticus 20:13 ESV
David Instone-Brewer points out that:
“…the different words ‘man’ and ‘male’ highlight the presence of two different words in the Hebrew text.‘Did Paul condemn all homosexuality?’ By David Instone-Brewer. Premier Christianity. 1
The first is the general word for ‘man’ (ish) and the second is ‘male’ (zakar) which emphasises masculinity.
If this text was narrating an event, we wouldn’t read much into two different words used for the same thing.
But this is a legal text, so the differences are more significant.
And if the point of this law is to forbid people who are similar from sleeping together, why use two words that might differentiate between two different types of men?
After all, ‘male’ (zakar) might refer to a ‘manly’ or more ‘masculine’ male.
In this case, the general word ‘man’ (ish) could refer to a less masculine man.
So this interpretation would forbid sex between what we might now call a heterosexual man with any other man (who might be homosexual), while remaining silent about sex between two homosexual men.
Although this problem has been recognised since the third-century Jewish commentary Sifra, I didn’t explore it until one fateful afternoon when I decided to dig deeper…”
I am planning to do a more in-depth article on this subject soon.
2. The acceptable sins that are unchallenged within churches.
I find it most frustrating that certain bad behaviours are pounced on within church circles, whereas other ones are ignored.
Is this hypocritical, are there acceptable sins?
Is lying, gossiping and slandering others justified?
Lying, gossiping and slandering often feel good because in doing so we elevate ourselves, but hopefully our conscience may tell us that it is wrong.
Lying tends to flow easily from many people’s lips because Jesus tells us that the Devil is the father of lies (John 8).
Save, O Lord, for the godly one is gone;Psalm 12:1-2 & 52:3 ESV
for the faithful have vanished from among the children of man.
Everyone utters lies to his neighbor; with flattering lips and a double heart they speak…
You love evil more than good and lying more than speaking what is right.”
Proverbs tells us that lying and slander is wrong:
The one who conceals hatred has lying lips and whoever utters slander is a fool…Proverbs 10:18 & 12:22 ESV
Lying lips are an abomination to the Lord, but those who act faithfully are his delight.”
And for those who say that it is only lying, look at this verse from Revelation
But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the detestable, as for murderers, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death.”Revelation 21:8 ESV
Spreading bad news about others and criticising them is so easy, but it quickly escalates and increases and creates a toxic environment.
Gossiping is bad and can often occur disguised in prayer meetings.
Besides that, they learn to be idlers, going about from house to house, and not only idlers, but also gossips and busybodies, saying what they should not.”1 Timothy 5:13 ESV
The apostle Paul hoped for better things from the Church at Corinth:
For I fear that perhaps when I come I may find you not as I wish, and that you may find me not as you wish—that perhaps there may be quarreling, jealousy, anger, hostility, slander, gossip, conceit, and disorder.”2 Corinthians 12:20 ESV
Lying, gossiping and slandering are wrong, is destructive and should not be ignored.
Is greed, gluttony and materialism acceptable in churches?
Jesus launched a verbal attack on the religious leaders for their attitudes:
Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and the plate, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence.”Matthew 23:25 ESV
The apostle Paul has a very stern judgment on churchgoers who are greedy and tells others to not befriend them:
…not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler—not even to eat with such a one.”1 Corinthians 5:11 ESV
Jesus taught the crowd about covetousness which is translated from the Greek word ‘πλεονεξία (pleonexia) meaning ‘greediness’ and we would probably use the word ‘materialism’ now:
…’Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness [greed, materialism] for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.’Luke 12:15-21 ESV
And he told them a parable…
‘I will tear down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods.’ And I will say to my soul, ‘Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax eat, drink, be merry.’
But God said to him ‘Fool! This night your soul is required of you, and the things you have prepared whose will they be?’
So is the one who lays up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God.”
Greed, gluttony and materialism should not be acceptable sins within churches.
Is anger, jealousy and unforgiveness allowable in churches?
These things can bubble away under the surface causing much harm because these bad attitudes are earthly, unspiritual and demonic!
But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth.James 3:14-16 ESV
This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual demonic.
For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice.”
Things like anger, jealousy and unforgiveness are not the fruit of the Holy Spirit but are raw fleshly acts and they carry a very bad outcome:
Now the works of the flesh are evident:Galatians 5:19-21 ESV
sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these.
I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.”
3. God’s solution to bad attitudes within churches.
There may be greed, anger, jealousy, etc, within the congregation but in their eyes, these things are not so bad, or no one was owing up to it! See an article on our conscience.
Therefore in some congregations, blind eyes can be turned to those sorts of things and nothing gets resolved.
There are several verses to remember in situations like this, the apostle John tells us:
If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.1 John 1:8-10 NIV
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.
If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word has no place in our lives.”
The apostle Paul also tells us:
Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.”Ephesians 4:32 NIV
- Does the congregation think that they are without sin?
- Does the congregation believe in the forgiveness of sins and that we can be purified from unrighteousness?
- Can the congregation forgive those who are in the ‘taboo area’?
And as a reminder that our confessed sins have been forgiven:
I write to you, dear children, because your sins have been forgiven on account of his name.”1 John 2:12 NIV
Michelle Lazurek in rounding up her article on ’10 Bad Behaviours Christians Want to Justify’ says:
The church, while not perfect, is supposed to be a reflection of the type of relationship Christ wants with His church.’10 Bad Behaviours Christians Want to Justify’ by Michelle Lazurek. 2
The church, however, is messy.
We need to figure out the balance between honouring the Word of God in all things and being a welcoming place for His people who mess up.
Ultimately, there is no sin that Christ’s blood cannot cover.
While there are behaviours the church tends to gloss over, we need to be brothers and sisters to each other and urge us to strive toward the righteousness God wants for our lives.”