Actually many people may not agree with this post, at least at first. Five years ago I might not have agreed with this post! Yet as I grow and change and experience things, my outlook on many things has come to change. Most prominently, my views on what is sin.
Yep, that is right, I am daring to touch a topic that will most assuredly bring some backlash and possibly haters out of the works. Reactions may vary and arguments may ensue, as they already have in my own personal life, but that is all the more what makes me feel the need to write this post. It is OKAY if you don’t agree! But I do hope that at the end I have at least challenged the way you view things and cause you to examine you heart and motives a little deeper, always being in check with the Word of God and the Holy Spirit. So here it goes! What is sin and what is not?
Growing up I was raised in a strong christian conservative home. My parents were active in the church, the community, and politically. No one did any sort of drugs, there was rarely anything more than a bottle of wine in our house, and dating was not aloud till the age of 18 (which was changed to AFTER high-school when they realized my September birthday meant I was 18 and still not graduated! Though even that was a step up from the idea of “courting” they had tried to force on us the first half of our lives!). I was not aloud to go to school dances (though my sister somehow finagled going to prom her senior year… WITH A BOY!! Not fair…), TV and movies were highly monitored, and I didn’t even OWN a bikini till I was about 20! Yep, my parents were pretty strict, but honestly I can’t complain too much! They were loving, present, and set up good boundaries with great intentions, much of which I will probably do with my own children!
However, while all of this was understandable as a child, like what happens with everyone, sooner or later that child grows up and things are no longer so black and white! As I entered the adult world, I had to start asking and determining for myself what was okay and what was not. Was it okay to use this word but not that one? Was it okay to drink Alcohol and if so, how much? Was it acceptable to watch this movie? Or listen to this song? Or to go on dates with a few different guys instead of “kissing dating goodbye” and “courting” with intentions to marry?
Things that I had been told not to do and had been brought to think were “wrong” and “sinful”, I started asking is it really? And if so, why? If I watch a movie with a swear word in it, is that a sin? But what if it is a movie about God and it is simply showing how that unsaved person would actually talk? If I am over the age of 21 (and not under a covenant to not drink) then is it a sin to have a glass of wine? Probably not because Jesus drank! Okay, so is it a sin to have two glasses? Three? Is it a sin if I do get intoxicated, but I do it in my room by myself and then go to sleep and there are no negative actions that stem from that? But wait, what if I DO get intoxicated in public because I am out for a bachelorette party and am having fun with my friends! Is that a sin, even if I was still in control of my actions? Then I had to ask if the Bible actually said it was wrong to get drunk every now and then, or if it truly meant “Drunkenness” as in something you frequently practice, something that starts to take over your life and affect your relationship with God and with others.
So I began to formulate some questions to help myself determine what was truly a “sin” or not, and I came up with three things. First, what are the true motives of my heart behind this action? Does this action have any negative effects on my relationship with God? Does this action have any negative effects on any relationships with people or to my testimony to them?
Whenever something seems unclear to me in the Bible, these three questions seem to be a good guide for determining if something is wrong for me. I say wrong for me because, while I do not think that truth is relevant, I think that there ARE certain things that may actually be a sin for one person, but not for another, because each person has different weaknesses and convictions. I think Paul gives a pretty clear example of this in 1 Corinthians 8 when he talks about Christians fighting over eating meat sacrificed to idols being a sin or not. Clearly nothing actually happened to that meat when it was offered to the false Gods, it was simply meat and there was nothing inherently wrong with eating it. Yet some people felt convicted about it and so abstained, perhaps for them selves but also we see for others who might be watching.
I think that this is what the Bible means when it says, “”Everything is permissible,” but not everything is beneficial. “Everything is permissible,” but not everything is edifying.” God created everything on the earth, and when He was finished He looked down and said it is “good”. He didn’t say, “Well most of it is good, but I threw in some evil things here and there just to trip them up!”. Nope! All of it was good! The plants, the flowers, the weeds, the mushrooms, the grapes that might ferment, sex, laughter, and humans. Now yes, when the fall happened, sin entered the world and brought the potential for evil into every area of life, but that did NOT make everything in the world inherently evil. It simply meant that humans had the potential to twist and misuse something for evil. So this means that we can take something meant for good, but the way that we go about it or use it can make it evil because of the things flowing out of our hearts. Or sometimes we may not necessarily believe that something is wrong, such as drinking, yet it may very well be wrong to do or constantly talk about in the presence of minors. Same with language; while language is simply words with meanings that we ascribe to them and therefor no word in and of itself can inherently be “evil”, our motives behind that word or the context in which we use it can make it wrong in some instances, yet acceptable in others.
So then what do I really believe? Well, I do not believe that drinking is a sin. I don’t believe that using a drug is a sin. I don’t believe sex is a sin. I don’t believe gambling is a sin, or wearing a bikini, or even LEGGINGS AS PANTS. I believe that sin is what happens in my HEART, not IN my actions, but can be expressed through my actions. Jeremiah 17:10 says, “I the LORD search the heart and examine the mind, to reward each person according to their conduct, according to what their deeds deserve.” It does not say, “I the Lord examine only the deeds…”.
Some of you may be going, “Okay Marissa! I get it, so what is your point!?” Well, as I began to question these things and determine the difference between if something was wrong because I felt God said it was wrong, or if I only thought that because my parents/church had always taught me that, I also began to realize how judgmental I had been towards others and had put my own standards onto them. I would look at a person living differently from me and sneer at them and judge them. I would want to put my own boundaries around them, boundaries with good intentions to keep myself and them from “sin”, yet boundaries of which crossing were not actually “sin” in and of itself. But I found that as my thought process expanded, I became less “judging” and more “loving”. If I am honest, I think that this is what God truly wants from us. Romans 2:1-11 seems to take being “judgmental” of others pretty serious, and actually this one I can say pretty strongly is a sin!
When it comes to dealing with both our christian and non-christian friends, are we showing them the grace and love of God, or are we driving them away by simply looking at their actions? And are we calling their actions “sin” because we know it stems from ungodliness flowing out of their heart, or because we were told as children that that thing was wrong (like our grandparents were told dancing and playing cards was evil!). Now yes, some things are black and white in the Bible, and other things are black and white within the Laws our government, but for all those gray areas, I try to refer myself back to those questions of my motives and the effects, and do my best to refrain from judging others if their conclusions and convictions are different from mine, ESPECIALLY if that person is a non-believer. In fact any nonbeliever I should EXPECT for their actions to be outside of God, and my goal should be to first bring them to know God, and then to help them transform their actions as God transforms their hearts and minds. As Christians I think we need to always be careful that “speaking out against sin” does not become counter productive by making the person feel judged and hopeless instead of loved and hopeful! For “these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.” (1 Corinthians 13:13)