By Rachel-Claire Cockrell, Crosswalk.com
When we speak about "the Church" doing this or that, we tend to paint a picture of pastors, elders, or those in leadership at the forefront — as if they bear responsibility for sin issues on the rise in today's congregations. But according to Scripture, you and I are the Church. And if you and I are the Church, then the responsibility to identify and act on sin issues begins with us.
As Rachel-Claire Cockrel points out, "There are certain sins that Christians are always good at pointing out - usually in others. But there are a few that we tend to ignore, and these same few are the ones we also tend to commit more often ourselves."
Here are 8 sins that your church congregation — and you — are likely ignoring:
How often did Jesus call out the Pharisees in the New Testament? All. The. Time. And it was always for self righteousness or selfishness. If you have to compliment yourself on something good you’ve done, then you aren’t doing it right. So many of us like to display our faithful acts so that others will know what good Christians we are. Christ doesn’t care what everyone else thinks of your generosity. He cares about your heart and your motivation. If you need other people to know about the good things you do, feel, or think in order to feel validated, then you need to re-evaluate.
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For the record, I do NOT think patriotism in and of itself is a sin. I put this here because all too often we put faith and Christian values in the same box as political party and patriotism. The Bible is clear about the fact that Jesus’ name will be declared to ALL nations and peoples of the world. We shout, “‘Merica!” and talk about how much better we are than everyone else, but that’s not biblical. We project Christianity on to the American flag and assume that God acts American, but that’s not how it works. Celebrate American values and understand how blessed you are to live here, but remember that at the end of the day you are a citizen of heaven, and heaven will be full of people from all over the world.
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Jesus is very clear about worrying. He flat out tells us not to worry. Faith requires trust. 1 John 4:18 says, “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear. . .” God is love. He loved us enough to send his son to die to atone for our sins. His love is perfect; therefore, we should have nothing to fear. I know fear is inevitable sometimes. It is a major struggle for me. We are not perfect, but fear and worry are not part of the equation with Christ. These attitudes that imply a lack of faith. All we can do is remember that God is sovereign and always in control.
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We talk about pride all the time in church. We consistently discuss how detrimental and dangerous it is, but it seems like we don’t recognize what pride actually is. We don’t realize that every time we refuse someone forgiveness we are acting in pride. Every time you argue with a friend, family member, or spouse and insist that you will not be the one to apologize first then you act out of pride. Remember the grace that Christ extends to you and try to extend that same grace and forgiveness to others.
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This sin is closely related to pride. We bury ourselves in debt in order to make sure we have the best and newest things. The disciples often lived off of the generosity of others and Jesus was a poor carpenter. I’m not saying that wealth is inherently bad. It’s not. If you can afford that Mercedes, by all means, buy it. But if you can’t; if you are spending hundreds of dollars each month paying off debt, then you could be committing a modern form of gluttony. You need to look inside yourself and search your heart. If your nice things were taken away, would you still be satisfied and able to find joy in Christ? Why are you really in debt? Who are you trying to impress, God or men?
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I’m from the South, and there is an unspoken rule here that you can say whatever you want about someone as long as you follow it with, “Bless her heart!” I am as guilty of this as anyone. We like to talk about other people’s lives as if we live in their heads and know everything about them. This is something “churchy” people are constantly accused of, and is often the result of a judgemental attitude. Why won’t the woman who had an abortion come to your church? Because she’s afraid of the looks you’ll give her and the distance at which you will keep her. The same could be said for the pregnant 16 year old or the man who cheated on his wife. Sure, it’s nice to escape our own issues by talking about someone else’s for a while, but let’s try to remember to speak with grace and that our sin is just as sinful as anyone else’s.
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In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus tells us what we already know - that murder is wrong - but he follows that up by saying that anyone who has harbored hatred towards someone has committed murder in his heart. Hatred is connected intimately with fear. We fear people we don’t understand and that fear causes us to hate them irrationally. The general attitude towards all Muslims based on the acts of a small sect is a perfect example of this. We also tend to harbor hatred against those who have hurt us. We constantly need to be searching our heart and monitoring our thoughts and feelings.
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This one is the kicker. This is what will be the death of our faith and our influence. I know that Paul tells the churches to expel sinners from their midst. He encourages us not to indulge someone in sinful behavior. We use those verses to justify judgement of others and I believe this is a gross misinterpretation of scripture. Yes, we are to hold each other accountable, but I would never deign to call out a stranger or even an acquaintance on some perceived sin. I will hold my husband accountable, as he does for me. I know he loves me, so when he gently rebukes an action of mine I know that he is only encouraging me to better myself, just as I do the same for him. That is what Paul is talking about when he says to hold fellow brothers and sisters accountable in love. He is not talking about condemning others. Every time a Christian judges someone based on skin color, sexual orientation, gender, socioeconomic status, promiscuity (the list goes on, you get the idea), then they are acknowledging the belief that they are better than that person. The truth of Jesus is in our equality. We are all sinners in need of a Savior. Christians have accepted Christ and avoided condemnation based on faith and the grace of God. We do not avoid condemnation based on our own actions. Every time we think less of someone else, we forget that we are also sinners. Paul himself claimed that he was the “worst of all sinners.” If Paul considers himself the worst sinner - a man who dedicated his life to spreading the gospel of Christ and who wrote most of the New Testament - how much more of a sinner am I? The only way to avoid this sin is to acknowledge our own weaknesses and to embrace humility. In fact, that could help us avoid a multitude of sins.
Rachel-Claire Cockrell is a wife, a writer, and a high school English teacher. She is passionate about her students and does her best to exemplify the love of Christ to those kids who may not experience it anywhere else. She and her husband live in Arkansas. Follow her blog at http://rachelclaireunworthy.blogspot.com/ or on Facebook.
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