Shrewd as Snakes: Condemning Sin or Belittling Others?

By | April 18, 2012

Sometimes the biggest problem with a message isn’t the main point itself. The overall message may be right and true. However the speaker or author can make major errors along the way. Many wrongs can be hidden in this way, but the ends does not justify the means. Most people miss these problems, yet they are important to be aware of. Sometimes the message communicated “in between the lines” is just as important if not more so than the direct, central message a person is trying to convey. And these problems can poison the entire work, which is why I am taking time to look at them here in this series.

The bible talks about certain actions as being wrong and that we should not be doing them. This is true and we can speak about this quite correctly. However I have also witnessed people use this to cross a line into judging and condemning others. Unfortunately this is fairly easy to do and to cover up in the name of being bold and speaking the truth.

We know we are supposed to love others. Jesus states that despising someone puts you in danger of hell (Matthew 5:22), and that we shouldn’t judge others. (Judgement here means condemnation, not discernment; we are to be discerning, but not to judge others as being below us.)

If we love others, their sins will break our hearts. We will try to get them to turn away from sin for their own sakes. But some people begin to insult, judge, belittle, and condemn those who are sinning. This is definitely not a sign of love. When you know what to look for, there is a definite, clear difference between condemning sin and insulting sinners.

While the intention of getting people to stop sinning may be good, being condescending toward those who are currently sinning is neither loving nor very helpful. Cutting down people brings shame and guilt and hopelessness. Hopelessness because, if we have attacked their character, say for instance by calling them evil, perverted, a whore, weak, lazy, etc., we have said something about who they are. We are assigning them an identity. If their identity is that of a sinner, how can they expect to do anything but sin? And when we condemn we are usually saying—intentionally or not—that they are worthless (or worse, that they deserve to be attacked). This is disheartening to say the least, and doesn’t inspire many people to reach for something higher.

The truth of the matter however is that “there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1). Our identity is that we are now children of God (1 John 3:1), and we can live like it through the power of his Spirit. We should stop sinning because it is out of line with who we are and with our new nature. I am less likely to sin when I see myself highly, as an ambassador of God’s kingdom and a member of Christ. When I view myself as a sinner, I am more likely to sin because I believe it is my nature. (I’m certain many people will be quite confused or disagree with what I’ve said because of popular concepts. This isn’t to think of myself as “more high than I ought”, because I recognize that I’m not great in and of myself, but that God has made me his child. Once we are in Christ, we are not simply saved sinners for God transforms us and give us new life. While we are not yet sinless, our identity is no longer that of a sinner.)

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