Today at church the pastor was continuing to preach on his series about the Sermon on the Mount. He was in Matthew 5:27-30. When I took a quick look to remind myself what that section was about I thought, “Uh oh!”
Pastor Bret started by telling a story about an associate pastor he interned with and finished the story with the words the pastor told him that had stuck with Bret all these years: “Never think it can’t happen to you.”
That’s when I noticed three visitors stand up and walk out of the church.
You see Matthew 5:27-30 is that part where Jesus tells his followers that while the law says not to commit adultery Jesus says that if you had a lustful thought about a woman you’ve already committed adultery in your heart and you should gouge out your eye rather than let it commit sin.
Uh oh! The pastor went to a place that a lot of people are really uncomfortable going – he talked about how Jesus views sin, why we are to avoid it, and the consequences of it.
I don’t really want to talk about Matthew 5:27-30 today – that’s a topic for another time. I do want to talk, however, about how averse we are both as Christians and non-Christians to be confronted with our sin life and how our pride makes us feel offended when someone brings it up.
Show of hands – how many of you like to have other people point out your flaws? Don’t we all HATE that? And don’t we all get really defensive when people do that to us, especially when those closest to us tell us we’re doing wrong like our spouses? But what does scripture tell us?
James 5:16 says, “Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.”
Colossians 3:16 says, “Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts.”
Romans 15:14 says, “I myself am convinced, my brothers and sisters, that you yourselves are full of goodness, filled with knowledge and competent to instruct one another.”
Ephesians 4:15 says, “Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ.”
So according to scripture we’re supposed to:
- Confess our sins to another
- Admonish one another
- Teach one another
- Speak the truth in love
If scripture tells us to do these things why do we get so bent out of shape when a preacher, congregation member, friend, or spouse actually calls us out on our sin, admonishes us, tries to teach us something, or tells us the truth in love?
One word: PRIDE!
The reason we get so offended when people call us out is because our ego gets in the way and we get our feelings hurt. We don’t like to be wrong and we like it even less when someone points it out to us, especially when we have chosen to do wrong and are not ready to admit it’s actually wrong.
I get why people would walk out of a Baptist church when the pastor even whispers the word “sin.” Too many times pastors have preached the old, “Repent or go to hell” sermon when dealing with the topic. Too bad those folks left today because Pastor Bret is not that guy. His sermon was loving but it was the truth. And what is that truth?
We are sinners who all fall short of the glory of God. We have a sin nature and our heart harbors that sin. We must create habits that help keep us from that sin so we can say no to temptation. And yes, there are worldly consequences to sin – that associate pastor lost his job due to his inappropriate emotional relationship with another staff member, which he warned Pastor Bret could happen to him if he weren’t careful
The other truth is as fallen people we are full of pride and that pride keeps us from sharing our sin with an accountability partner; it keeps us from accepting admonishment when we need it; it keeps us from learning what pastors and others are trying to teach us; and it keeps us from both telling the truth lovingly and accepting that truth when it is told to us in love. Believe me, I’m just like you on this one – I’m not very good at this stuff either.
Today in the adult Sunday school I teach we talked about this very topic (funny how God connected the Sunday school teaching with the sermon without the pastor or I talking about it! I love it when He does that!). At the end of class I asked what the members of that class were willing to commit to when the walked out that door. Would they commit to –
- Giving people permission to tell them the truth in love?
- Sharing their sin life with an accountability partner?
- Accepting instruction from the pulpit, classroom, and other places?
- Speaking the truth in love to others even when it is uncomfortable?
This is really hard stuff and it starts with relationship. You really can’t do all this without having deeper relationships with the people around you. So I challenged the group – and I am challenging you now – to build those relationships you need to have in your life so you can be vulnerable enough to accept correction and share failure as scripture commands. The heavy burden of sin becomes so much lighter when shared even though that sounds counterintuitive.
Don’t think it can’t happen to you. The devil prowls around like a lion looking to devour you and he’ll do it where you are weakest. And you are weakest where your pride is strongest!
Understand who you are in Christ – you are not guilty and you are not under condemnation. You are free to accept correction and share your sins with your brothers and sisters who are struggling just as badly as you are. And together we can all hold each other up, hold each other accountable, and encourage each other in our daily struggles!