I recently heard a pastor open his sermon with a lighthearted comment about his sin of overeating at Thanksgiving. The crowd chuckled and nodded approvingly. Most had committed the same sin, but knew that their sin was ok because they are under grace and not under law. Later in the same sermon the pastor commented that when we buy coffee at Starbucks we are “supporting homosexual laws”. The crowd shook their heads in disgust. This was not a sin they had committed, and they knew the Bible is very clear about homosexuality. It is an abomination and must be stopped in its tracks. It doesn’t matter that gluttony makes the deadly sins Top Seven, nor that according to the CDC, 36% of Americans are obese, nor that “Obesity-related conditions include heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes and certain types of cancer, some of the leading causes of preventable death.” Gluttony is funny and understandable, homosexuality is evil and should be illegal.
I am not arguing for either gluttony or homosexuality. There are multiple scriptures about each, you can look it up for yourself. My question is how do we decide? How do we decide that “their” sin is evil while “our” sin is no big deal? As Scot McKnight says in The Blue Parakeet, we all pick and choose, the question is which sinner we choose to laugh off and which sinner we choose to condemn.
It is interesting how little time Jesus spent trying to change Roman law to deal with gluttons or homosexuals (both of which seemed to be rampant in Jesus’ day), and how much he focused on things like removing my eye-logs before picking a speck out of my neighbors eye. Would Jesus have reacted differently if the woman caught in adultery had been a man caught in bed with another man. (“He’s a homosexual? Well that’s different, hand me a stone.”)
We often quote the truism, “Hate the sin, but love the sinner”, but we seldom apply it evenly. Some sins, my sins, I hate just a little bit. Your sin I hate a little more. Other sins, the sins I will never commit, I hate enough that my hate spills out on the sinner, the sinner’s friends and anyone who associates with the sinner. We say we love the sinner but we continually do and say things that scream out to the one who commits the unacceptable sins, “You do not belong. You are vile and filthy and not worthy.” If we do not think that is the message we are sending maybe we should ask the sinner what they think.
Jesus seemed to come from a different angle. He did not shy away from calling out sin, but He loved sinners so much that religious people often accused him of being a sinner. He loved sinners so much that he ate with gluttons and drunks and prostitutes and maybe even homosexuals. He loved sinners so much that he believed that love, extreme radical irrational love, covered a multitude of their sins. He loved sinners so much that he was willing to be beaten, ridiculed and nailed to a cross where he died for them.
He loved this arrogant, gluttonous, lust-filled sinner so much that he died for me. And for you. And for the sinner of whom you and I don’t approve.
Perhaps instead of making statements and passing laws and boycotting stores, the most potent way we can combat “their” sin is to love God with all of our heart, mind, soul and strength and to love our neighbor, our fat, gay, alcoholic, porn-addicted neighbor as our self.