May Christians Condemn Sin?

I have found that people are uncomfortable with being confronted in their sins. I should not be surprised, considering I don’t like to be confronted with how I am wrong. As much as I do not like to be confronted with my wrongs, I find that I greatly appreciate a friend that will stop me from sinning. I want to be stopped if my wrongs hurt others or myself. I know I need to be warned about how I may harm my relationship with God if I persist in disobedience against His word.

It is a part of the Christian message to warn people of the dangers of sin and disobedience against God’s law.

I think it is helpful to consider Jesus’ first recorded sermon in the gospel of Mark. After Jesus was baptized and experienced temptation in the wilderness, He went into Galilee, proclaiming the gospel of God. The good news that Jesus preached was, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel” (Mark 1:15). Jesus told the people to repent and believe in the gospel. Repent means to turn around. The people were going the wrong direction with their actions and faith. Jesus called upon them to turn around from their sin and to trust in the good news of the kingdom of God. The idea that Jesus is love and so would never tell me that I am doing something wrong is ludicrous. Jesus loves me. Because He loves me, He tells me to turn away from sin and trust in Him.

There is a certain tension in the word repent and Jesus’ words from Matthew 7. Jesus said, “Judge not, that you be not judged” (Matthew 7:1). How do we call a person to repentance and not bring judgment? One implication of these words from Jesus that others have mistakenly drawn is that Christians should not say anything negative about anyone or make declarations about rights or wrongs. I want you to continue in Matthew 7 and consider that Jesus has more to say about judgment than just those seven words. Jesus also says, “You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye” (Matthew 7:5). The caution of Jesus is not just about any sort of judgment but more specifically about the prideful judgment that comes without any personal self-examination.

Words of rebuke and admonishment do have a place in the Christian community. You and I need to be honest about what is sinful and harmful in the church and in our communities. The desire to see a person turn away from sin is the context for telling someone that he is sinning. In Christian community we seek with humbleness and gentleness to correct another person when his false teaching or living separates him from the body of Christ. St. Paul told the Colossians, “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom” (Colossians 3:16). Jesus told His disciples that if your brother sins against you that you should go and tell him his fault (Matthew 18:15). Jesus also said, “Do not judge by appearances, but judge with right judgment” (John 7:24).

When I call a person to repent of his sin, I also hear these words for myself. We all must repent, turn away from sin, and trust in the good news of the kingdom. St. Paul wrote to the Galatians, “Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness” (Galatians 6:1). Our unrepentant sins can wrestle us away from living in unity. When someone is caught in sin, we should not ignore the sin or celebrate the sin. Nor do we have any need to rejoice in quarreling. We grieve that a break in our fellowship has happened, and we seek restoration in our community.

Rebuke, admonishment, and correction are a part of living in Christian community. I desire that you correct me when I sin and that you announce to me the forgiveness of Christ. So also we urge our erring brothers and sisters in Christ back into the forgiving arms of Christ.

As wounds are opened and hurt is known, we need to share that all sins are forgiven in Christ. By grace we are saved and, this is a gift from God.

Office

We all have an office in a situation. I mean that we all have a role in a situation and when we seek to live another person’s role then conflict and sin often results.

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An example of how sin erupts when we seek to act outside of our own callings is the fire of the restaurant that occurred next door to the congregation I serve. The first responders had their role. They fought the fire. As the pastor of a nearby congregation, I offered our bathrooms and coffee to anyone that I could. I talked with people who gathered on the lawn of St. Paul to watch the fire. I hoped to offer counsel and hope in the blessed love of Jesus Christ. The only people who had the office of investigating the fire and determining the cause of the fire was the fire department. But I found myself questioning the cause and the motives of others. I listened to others conjecture the cause of the fire. It was so easy to speak beyond my duty and seek to usurp the role of another person.

This event last week has caused me to think about how important Jesus’ question after he shared the story of the good Samaritan. Jesus asked, “Which of these three, do you think, proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?” 

When someone is in need, is there any other question more important than this question? “Who was neighbor to this man?”

The Word of God shows me my sin, my struggle, and the struggle of others. Praise God, I also find in the Word of God the blessed assurance of the faithfulness of our Lord God. His love is inexhaustible and is needed in our exhausted world. I pray that I will be a vessel of the Lord to share this forgiving love in my community. I know I struggle. I know that others struggle. Thank you Lord for understanding our struggles and our need for you.

Blessed are the peacemakers

Matthew 5:9 “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.”

James 3:18 “And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.”

Conflict with people I care about is difficult for me. Wouldn’t it be great if we could all get along? I so long for the Biblical image of heaven in which we all sing with one voice our praises of God. I wish that there were not so many different church denominations. We confess that we believe in the one, holy, Christian, apostolic church, but yet we have an alphabet soup of denominations.

On the church sign at St. Paul Lutheran Church in Hamburg, Michigan are the letters LCMS (Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod). St. Paul Lutheran Church is a member congregation of The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod. The LCMS has been around since 1847 when German immigrants established a new church body in America. Our church body was largely founded by immigrants that had left Germany because they were seeking the freedom to practice and follow their faith.

I want to explain in this article briefly why our congregation is a member of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod. The LCMS believes, teaches, and confesses that in Christ alone there is salvation – by grace alone, through faith alone, on the basis of Scripture alone. The LCMS is a creedal church. We define ourselves by our creeds or confessions which state what we understand to be the teachings of the Bible. I appreciate that our unity is based on the truth of Scripture. The LCMS and every member of the synod “accepts without reservation the Scriptures of the Old and New Testament as the written Word of God and the only rule and norm of faith and practice” and all the writings in the Book of Concord as “a true and unadulterated statement and exposition of the Word of God” (LCMS Constitution II).

Martin Luther and other founding members of the Lutheran church did not want to be innovative in their teaching. We continue to be a conservative church. We seek to conserve in our teaching nothing more and nothing less than what the Scriptures themselves teach and what Christians have always believed. At the heart and core of everything we believe and teach is the Gospel, the good news of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ for the sins of the whole world.

There will be controversies in each generation that seek to push the church away from relying on the authority of Holy Scripture as the inspired and inerrant Word of God. For instance, with a desire to love other people, some may believe it is necessary to bend the teaching of the church on certain sins. The level of discomfort you may have in a conversation with a friend can quickly increase when talking about how certain behaviors are sinful. You may have found yourself censoring some of your conversations because you desire to keep the peace and avoid any conflict. We do not bring peace by avoiding the topic of sin or by accepting sin. Sin separates us from a loving God and from those He seeks to love.

When there is sin, the only peace I know that will last for eternity is found in Jesus Christ. I know that I do not like conflict with people I care about. I also know that true peace with God and with those I care about is not found in silence. The center of our salvation is the forgiveness of sin, and so we cannot afford to ignore sin. Sin is a problem and silence will not resolve this problem. You will not have peace with God or with others by ignoring sin. Peace with God and so therefore peace with others is found in the faith that Christ alone forgives our sins.