Many in the churches today seem to look at this title and say “What’s that?” And then they consult every authority but the Bible for an answer, especially the New Testament.
But it isn’t complicated or hidden. If you know the NT at all, you could define sin as whatever gets between you and God. We do live in “the age of grace” (and “grace” in the NT means favor given from the greater to the lesser), but as the apostle Paul strongly argued in Rom. 6:2, 7, this is no license to sin but freedom from sin. To slip and fall and get back up is typical, and God does understand and forgive (see my earlier article for detail on “kinds” of sin). But when we either refuse to give something up that God forbids, or to even call it sin, we have erected a barrier between ourselves and God.
So what does the NT call sin? Most people, even unbelievers, would agree that theft, murder, false witness, kidnapping, etc. are bad things, and that anyone who commits such acts must be punished. Yet some things, even some on that list, seem to be explained away when it suits people. For example, many “Christian” business owners have believed they could embezzle, defraud, cheat on taxes etc., because that’s “just business” and didn’t have anything to do with their faith. I personally witnessed both men and women in church engaging freely in gossip and slander while claiming what they were doing wasn’t it.
But we have to define sin by God’s standards, not our own. If God were to have said that it is a sin to stand on your head while chewing bubblegum and wearing orange shoes, it would be sin. If God were to have said that eating popcorn is a sin, it would be sin. The point is that it is God who makes the rules, not us, and not our personal views on what should or shouldn’t be wrong— or what does or doesn’t “cause harm” to another.
Has anyone stopped to ask what “harms” God? Doesn’t He matter? Isn’t Eph. 4:30 still in our Bibles?
The things I mentioned— murder, theft, etc.— also harm other people. But adding other “gods” to our faith doesn’t, yet it’s clearly a sin against God, even in the NT (Acts 4:12, John 3:14-21). And we also have scriptures such as Mark 7:21, Rom. 1:24-30, 1 Tim. 1:9-10, and Rev. 21:8 to give us more detail. The promiscuous cannot look down on the homosexual, the homosexual cannot look down on the embezzler, the embezzler cannot look down on the liar, etc. Yet none of them can excuse their own sin or call it acceptable in the sight of God.
Look at 1 Cor. 5, the whole chapter. A man is to be expelled from fellowship for living with his father’s wife— a sin the Christians there were proud of! Yet Paul tells THEM, these people who were approving and who had many sins of their own, to throw the man out. So much for the excuse that churches cannot judge anyone’s sin since we’re all sinners.
But how can we understand the precedent Paul is setting in this passage, since sinners were to disfellowship sinners? I think a clue is found in 1 Cor. 6:13, 18-20. Paul makes a distinction between sexual sin and all others. And yes, we’re talking ALL sexual sin, not just homosexuality. The man Paul had just wrote about before this was in a heterosexual relationship. So how likely would it be for Paul to condone a same-sex union? Didn’t the man and his step-mother love each other? Who were they hurting? Yet this was SIN, and it was not to be “tolerated”. Now of course Paul was not teaching that all the other sins were not to be “judged”; check 1 Cor. 5:12-13. But he was teaching that certain sins had to be dealt with more harshly than others.
Yes, it would be hypocritical for a church to exclude someone for unrepentant homosexuality but not for unrepentant heterosexual promiscuity. But this hardly means that neither should be excluded. Nor does it mean that all others have a license to sin.
We as Christians need to seriously examine our standing with God if we celebrate those things that God has told us grieve Him, directly or indirectly. It isn’t all about us and our “harmless” personal preferences, but God, holiness, and purity. We must put an end to the kind of hypocrisy that says it’s wrong to oppress women but not wrong to accept sexual sins, or that it’s wrong to “touch God’s anointed” but not wrong for “God’s anointed” to smash all dissent. Sin is sin is sin!
Deal with it.