Sin mars the world. It makes life difficult. The good news is that Jesus came and broke the hold of sin and death. But when we create doctrine that it is only a spiritual reality that will eventually be experienced in heaven we allow sin to persist in our lives.
Christians have relegated “sin” to that which makes God angry or that which God forbids because it is unholy behavior. We are scared of it. We are angry when we see people breaking God’s rules. We think they are intentionally living against God and His ways. But what if there is another way to look at sin?
While it is true that sin separates us from God and that sin is unrighteousness, there is a practicality we overlook. Living righteously is not something everyone knows how to do innately. Nor is it something we are all able to do outside of Jesus.
A three year old does not know not to hit his sister unless he has been told that hitting her is not how he ought to behave. A child does not know not to take another child’s toy she wants to play with unless someone teachers her not to. In a culture where the way of life is not taught from birth, these things are not going to be understood.
When we place redemption of sin into the spiritual realm alone, we rely on the grace of God to cover our continued unsanctified living. We go on living the way we always have because we know there is no condemnation in Christ Jesus. We know that our Father loves us no matter our faults. This is good, but in so doing we have forgotten what it looks like to be a Christian. We’ve boiled Christianity down to the bumper sticker, “I’m not perfect, just forgiven.”
Truth is seldom boiled down to fit nicely on a bumper sticker. The religious Christians lean more toward the law than towards grace, but the laws are selective. The big sins are larger than life, but gossip, unforgiveness, slander, and disrespect go unchecked. The non-religious Christians lean more towards grace than the law. Everything is permissible even if they have a bumpy ride due to the lack of everything being beneficial.
So how do we reconcile the conundrum between there being no condemnation in Christ Jesus and Christians behaving and living like Christians in all areas of life?
Living out of alignment with God’s ways creates practical problems in our lives. Lying is not merely wrong because God says it is a sin, it is detrimental to truth. Breaking your word has a long string of effects on those around you. Gossip hurts people. Murder ends a person’s life. Fornication hurts both people and their future relationships. A culture that does not value marriage and fails to keep marriage vows tramples the dignity of women and the security of children.
When we say yes to Jesus we receive an internal transformation that becomes an external new way of life. If we are the same person in Christ that we were five years ago, we are missing something. If we have the same habits as we did before Christ, we are missing something. God doesn’t sovereignly remove our fleshly resistance to living rightly, but He does fill us with his supernatural love to want to conform to His ways. But conforming is a supernatural and natural process that is the working out of our salvation. Condemnation works against our making progress in this process, but the grace of God helps keep us moving closer to conforming to His image.
As Christians we are prone to righteousness, not to unrighteousness. We are no longer slaves to sin. But living rightly does not just happen, we have to learn what that looks like and walk that out in the real world. We do that with the help of the Holy Spirit and the Body of Christ.
The Church is not a club for forgiven spiritually righteous people. It is a community of real people learning to live out our salvation with each part supplying what the other part needs. Together we create a culture that can transform the world around us.