So, I’m a Christian and getting there has been a strange experience, so strange in fact, that I’m pressed to describe it to others, so they can share in the abnormality of it all. This is just my experience and may not reflect what other people are experiencing. I am just sharing what I have encountered and what I have been told.
One thing I’ve learned is that sin is relative, this is to say that sin is not an absolute among Christians.
I didn’t know this in the beginning and it caused huge arguments with fellow Christians because I kept pointing out bad behavior that I originally thought was inappropriate. But over time I came to realize that sin is only sinful as it relates to the following:
- Individual Biblical Interpretation
- Rules of Congregations / Denominations
- The Mindset of the Person Sinning
To make it easier to understand I have categorized some of its complexity below.
The “Accidental” Sin: This was a hard one to understand because it has to do with motive. Let’s say a nonbeliever is doing something that is sinful, then we need to fix them because nonbelievers are joyfully doing sinful things on purpose. (BUT) If someone in a religious community is doing the same thing then it’s not really sinning since they don’t take joy in it.
How it was explained to me: I was told it’s a heart thing. Those on the inside have a desire in their heart to stop sinning but those on the outside do not. Those on the inside sin by accident due to unforeseen circumstances that were just too much to handle. They may also have been tricked into sin.
The issue I have with this: Both sides look the same. Same sins being committed, by the same people, year in and year out but a double standard is being applied for those who are nonbelievers. I decided to go with the Bible on this and not judge anyone. You live your life that’s your business I have no right to judge you.
Romans 2:1 — 2 You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge another, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things.
The “You Not Me” Sin: This type of sin is much more straightforward and easier to understand. This is where some openly engage in behavior that is counter intuitive to the religious doctrine they follow BUT they claim a sort of immunity due to reasons that transcend earthly understanding.
How it was explained to me: There are things we don’t understand so ignore the bad behavior in the church since those people are in positions of authority and leadership or they are following a calling that transcends common understanding.
The issue I have with this: It’s obvious people are hypocrites and are openly lying to justify doing what they want while at the same time pointing fingers at others. I decided to go with the Bible on this and see everyone as being in the same boat, no exceptions.
Romans 2:3 — 3 Do you suppose, O man—you who judge those who practice such things and yet do them yourself—that you will escape the judgment of God?
The “Church” Sin: I noticed something I thought would be obvious once I became a Christian, but it soon became apparent that this was a taboo subject, “Churches Dedicated to Sinning“. This is to say that, if my church is the true church then the church down the street must be a fake church spreading a false message on purpose, since the message is not the same. You would think that this would be obvious but this is where it gets very strange, not only do we not say anything about them we literally count them as Christians.
How they explained it: Everyone who believes will hear the correct message if they are basically Christian. Focus on the real problem (non Christians). It will workout in the end don’t worry.
My solution: I decided to look up religion in the bible so I could once and for all know which church to follow and the answer was something I had never heard in church.
James 1:27 — 27 Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.
The “Special” Sin: On Sunday I kept hearing this word abomination, so I started learning more about it. As I asked questions people became very upset with me because I was asking about abominations in the church, not the abominations outside of the church.
How they explained it: Those are old abominations and can be ignored but the ones talked about in Sunday service are special sins because they are immoral and tear apart the fabric of society.
The issue I have with this: Hypocrisy. You either believe what you are reading for everyone, including yourself, or you don’t.
James 2:10-11 — 10 You can’t pick and choose in these things, specializing in keeping one or two things in God’s law and ignoring others. 11 The same God who said, “Don’t commit adultery,” also said, “Don’t murder.” If you don’t commit adultery but go ahead and murder, do you think your non-adultery will cancel out your murder? No, you’re a murderer, period.
The “Larger” Sin: This came up a lot with marriage issues in the church. For example, if a husband was abusing his wife then the message was for the wife to do better. She was sinning because she wasn’t keeping him happy (Larger Sin), he would then act out by cheating, hitting, abusing etc. (Smaller Sin).
How they explained it: The point is that sometimes people sin, and it causes others to sin unwillingly. Larger sins cause smaller sins so the burden is on the larger sin.
The issue I have with this: Each individual is responsible for themselves so I’m not going to conflate individual sin and put unnecessary burdens on anyone for what someone else is doing. If your spouse is abusing you then leave them, because they don’t take responsibility and they can’t control themselves, don’t live in misery.
Galatians 6:5 — For we are each responsible for our own conduct.
The “Majority” Sin: This is the most obvious and ignored sin and is fully tribal in nature. As an example: If your congregation is on the heavier side then “Gluttony” will not be a sin in that church, in fact, they may even have food every Sunday in support of more eating. This is to say that if most of the people attending a specific church commit the same type of sin, then that sin will be removed from the talking points and generally accepted.
How they explained it: Surprisingly most people don’t entertain me with a response to this issue when I bring it up with fellow Christians. I just get brushed off laughingly with comments like, “It’s no big deal” or my favorite, “Stop being such a troublemaker”.
The issue I have with this: We can not pretend away our own bad behaviors simply because we all do it, that’s nonsensical. Our hypocrisy is making it hard for people to her anything we have to say.
Deuteronomy 12:32 — 32 See that you do all I command you; do not add to it or take away from it.