But What About Sin?

 

 

 

 

 

Recently I reached out to a fella who had been increasingly confrontational on social media. I wanted to check in personally to see if he and I were OK.

He responded letting me know he was concerned with my writing’s lack of focus on sin and hell. 

“I often wonder why we are trying to get folks into the Kingdom if there is no punishment at the end of life.” He wrote.

He shared about a person he loved who is living desperate, lost in brokenness, and sin. He let me know he felt compelled by love to sternly and consistently inform this loved one of the wages of sin; of the punishment that God has planned for those who do not repent.

He felt that was my job as well.

In his response to me, he referenced the woman caught in adultery, highlighting that Jesus told her to “go and sin no more.”

Sin. It’s a big deal. It destroys lives, families, communities. It’s a problem for sure. 

And the fact is, this fella and I don’t disagree on the wages of sin. Our disagreement is around the issue of punishment. We disagree on the nature of God.

This fella believes God is punitive or retributive. That God condemns.

I do not believe God punishes or seeks retribution. Not ever, not once, not a little, not even if the occasion calls for it… and also, never.

Nor is He the author of condemnation. If you are curious, READ THIS…

I believe God is restorative, always. Redeeming and restoring all things to Himself. If you’re curious, listen to these podcasts featuring Mako Nagasawa or Brad Jersak or READ THIS

And yes, sin is a problem, a broken desperate hellscape, for which Jesus is the answer. But not a punitive Jesus, not a retributive Jesus, not a condemning Jesus. If you’re curious READ THIS…

Below is part of an edited response I gave to this fella. It highlights my thoughts regarding the woman caught in adultery and also implies a different approach regarding how he might interact with the person he loves who is lost in sin…


“…I too have dear people in my life who are deceived, lost, and living in sin. I too see the bondage and brokenness, the fruit of the choices made. So, yes, sin is a big deal…

But my approach toward a person who is sinning isn’t punishment nor to focus on retribution, its’ kindness. I’m convinced that kindness brings true repentance (Rom 2:4).

I am equally convinced that punishment and condemnation do not birth true repentance. The kind of repentance evidenced by heart and then life transformation. (Rom 12:2)

The woman caught in adultery? She experienced kindness from Jesus and what did it look like? The systematic removal of condemnation.

She stood naked, ashamed, condemned, guilty, and very much experiencing the consequences of her existence and the culmination of her choices when Jesus is asked to judge her, or more specifically, to condemn her, to be stoned—to death! The wages of sin is death…

Jesus did not condemn her. Instead, He exposed the deceptive, self-righteous, condemning spirit in the Pharisees, the “church leaders,” by inviting a sinless person to throw the first rock.

They all left.

Then Jesus asked something incredibly powerful, “Where are your accusers…” (John 8:10) All her accusers were gone, by the way. The spirit of accusation had been exposed and literally couldn’t persist.

Jesus noted this, continuing, “Has no one condemned you?” (John 8:10) 

Jesus waited for her as she looked around for those who would condemn her. He waited for her to recognize the absence of her tormentors, “No one sir” she said. (John 8:11) 

Nope. All her accusers had gone. And Jesus wanted her to see this. Because it’s huge! There were no accusers, Jesus disarmed them.  Condemnation was absent.

Then Jesus, the only person on the planet who theoretically could have condemned her, the only one without sin, said the most powerful statement a person lost in sin needs to hear, and not just hear but actually feel; actually experience, Neither will I condemn you.”(John 8:11) 

Jesus didn’t condemn her, but also, Jesus made it clear that no one else could, either.

My point? Jesus addressed her condemnation before He addressed her sin.

Then, after Jesus mercifully removes all condemnation, He releases grace by saying, “Go and sin no more.” (John 8:11) 

Essentially: “I set you free from a life of condemnation. Your sin doesn’t get a say in how I see you. You aren’t what your sin says about you. You aren’t your sin. You are a beloved daughter, so be free, act like it! Live like the righteous child you are!”

You see, while the wages of sin is death, the gift of God through Christ is everlasting life. (see Rom 6:23) This scripture isn’t a reference to some promised afterlife, it’s an invitation to everlasting life now.

“Go and sin no more” was the empowering invitation to no longer live under condemnation.

It’s kindness that leads to repentance, not condemnation.

All of us are created for love. Righteousness, peace, and joy is our inheritance. Jesus is our salvation. Jesus on a cross saying, “Father forgive them, they know not what they do.” (Luke 23:34)

Or… “Father, remove from them the weight of condemnation, so they might be free…”

God, in Christ, on a cross, not counting our sins against us, removed all condemnation, and reconciled the world to Himself. (see 2 Cor 5:19)

He made a way…

So How Should We Respond to Sin?

Yes, sin is a big deal, but our privilege as Christians is to remove the condemnation that is associated with it, not add to it.

We are invited to, like Christ, release kindness, and walk people into freedom.

“There is, therefore, no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus…” (Rom 8:1) That’s us!

And I would add, ‘therefore there should be no condemnation from those who are in Christ Jesus.’

We can’t give away what we don’t have…”

 

I continued on in my message with some personal thoughts regarding the person he loved who was lost in sin but I’ve taken the offramp to make a couple of suggestions.

I would like to suggest that any area of life in which we release condemnation on a person is an area in which we ourselves are walking under condemnation. And we truly don’t need to be.

I would also add, any area of our lives where we are experiencing condemnation is an area where we are not fully convinced in the finished work of the cross. And it is finished.

Another way of articulating it: any area where we are not confident in His affection is an area where we will struggle with feelings of condemnation for both ourselves and others.

And condemnation literally cuts us off from accessing His grace to go and sin no more, to live confident in righteousness, peace, and joy, the evidence of His kingdom within us.

It was a memory of the kindness and goodness of his father that drew the Prodigal home (see Luke 15:11-32). What if we, as Christians, lived confident in, and revealed that kindness? How many prodigals would come home?

And by the way, every person lost in sin is a son or daughter, our brother or sister, a prodigal being called home.

I am convinced that Love is the answer to every question that aches in the heart of humanity. I am convinced that we belong before we become. I am convinced that family is the long game. I am convinced that it is kindness that empowers repentance and a renewed mind. And I’m convinced that we are truly transformed as our minds are renewed.

While we may disagree on the concepts of eternal suffering, we can all agree that suffering exists here now, and our mandate is “on earth as it is in heaven.”

So may we live confident in His affection today. And may we remove all condemnation from our loved ones, from our social media pages, our neighbors, our leaders, our churches and on and on so they too may live confident.


Jason Clark
is a writer, speaker and lead communicator at A Family Story ministries. His mission is to encourage sons and daughters to grow sure in the love of an always-good heavenly Father. He and his wife, Karen, live in North Carolina with their three children.

6 Comments

  1. Matt

    Well written bro, all sin is paid for.
    What are your thoughts on church discipline?

    For though absent in body, I am present in spirit; and as if present, I have already pronounced judgment on the one who did such a thing. When you are assembled in the name of the Lord Jesus and my spirit is present, with the power of our Lord Jesus, you are to deliver this man to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord.
    1 Corinthians 5:3‭-‬5 ESV

    Bless ya!

    Reply
  2. Jason Clark

    Hey Matt,

    This is a sticky question simply because “church discipline” has almost as many definitions as “Christian.” It can mean almost anything…

    Recently, on Facebook, for fun, I posted a hashtag that read “Stuff Jesus Never Said.”

    I wrote, “Let’s play a game ‘The Bible loves You’ #StuffJesusNeverSaid Your turn, go.”

    As of today there are over 250 responses from Christians around the world spanning subjects like the nature of God, women in ministry, evangelism, church attendance and on and on…

    These 250 plus responses essentially note the abuses of scripture and more to the point the abuses of those who taught it to them.

    My point, I believe in “church discipline.” But in my 46 years, I have rarely seen it done well. Discussing “church discipline” online is like discussing Big Foot. There have been sightings but he’s an elusive fella.

    I love Danny Silks book, Culture of Honor. He writes about church leadership and specifically, healthy church discipline. He gives a few beautiful stories of what can happen when the goal is repentance and the fruits thereof. He notes that when honor is at the heart of a leader when disciplining, there is always a doorway to repentance, transformation and reconciliation. I think everyone should read it. Especially leaders.

    The scripture you posted has context. Paul is actually correcting the elitist and arrogant attitudes in the church leaders because their hearts aren’t broken but instead they are acting proud.

    “And you are proud! Shouldn’t you rather have gone into mourning and have put out of your fellowship the man who has been doing this?” 1 Cor 5:2 NIV

    “And you’re so above it all that it doesn’t even faze you! Shouldn’t this break your hearts? Shouldn’t it bring you to your knees in tears? Shouldn’t this person and his conduct be confronted and dealt with?” 1 Cor 5:2 THE MESSAGE

    Paul is addressing a leadership that is so outside union with their Father that they are blinded to the son who is now living like a desperate, insecure, and destructive orphan in their house.

    I think it’s important in reading this verse to understand that Paul is first addressing leadership for their lack of mourning, for the hardness of their hearts. They are not operating like Fathers but like CEO’s.

    He was addressing how far their hearts were from our Fathers heart.

    Jesus revealed our Father’s heart perfectly. He leaves the 99 for the one, He celebrates the discovery of the lost coin, He sells all He has for the treasure in the field…

    Jesus, on a cross, revealed our Father’s heart toward all of Hs kids, all of us.

    If discipline isn’t about a father walking in humility, desiring the best for his child while mourning the fallen mindset, it will become punishment and there will be no life in it.

    All discipline should be restorative in nature or it isn’t Godly. It isn’t like Jesus.

    If we leave the revelation of Father behind while reading this scripture, we will, and have, come up with some pretty punitive, retributive and ultimately abusive “disciplines.”

    Now, let me address the verse you posted by posting one of my new favorite paraphrase versions.

    “As you meet together and I meet with you in the spirit by the power of our Lord Jesus Christ present with us, such a person is to be released from your midst and handed over to the Accuser, let the accusation consume his flesh until the light of day, the revelation of Jesus Christ rise for him again to rescue his spirit from the deceit of his sin.” (1 Cor 5:4-5 The Mirror)

    Here are my brief thoughts to this scripture read through the lens of a Father.

    First, Satan is the accuser (1Timothy 4:13), not God, not me, not you, nor anyone else. Yes, accusation exists in this world, we have all felt it, but it’s nothing to do with us. Accusation and all that comes with it (condemnation) is not, nor should it ever be something we partner with. Especially as fathers and mothers, as leaders.

    Second, Because God is love He has given us free will. Without the freedom to reject His love we don’t have the freedom to receive it. We aren’t robots. God is a Father and wants friendship with His kids. A loving relationship.

    There were two trees in the Garden of Eden. We still have two trees today. There is no condemnation for those in Christ. But if we chose to reject our union with Him, we literally choose condemnation. Not from Him, that’s impossible, there is no condemnation in Christ. Condemnation is simply the fruit of our rejection.

    Matthew 6:22-23 reveals how this works “The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are healthy, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eyes are unhealthy, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness!”

    Third, “Hand him over to the Accuser..” is essentially the same thing the Father did when His prodigal hearted son demanded his inheritance while leaving His father’s house, his fathers grace, wholeness, and life…. The father, loving his son and valuing his free will, released him to his fallen mindset pursuits.

    Then, and this is important, the Father stood on the porch waiting for evidence his son had repented so He could run to him and restore him.

    That is how a Father hands over a free-willed son who systematically rejects His disciplines. He releases him to the fruits of His fallen mindset knowing that his love and kindness are powerful and that when his son has chased his rebellions ambitious ego to its conclusion, he will remember and return to the arms of His Father.

    No condemnations, no accusation, simply a value for free will with a faith in love winning in the end.

    That’s how I read this scripture and how I believe we are called to discipline.

    Love ya!

    Reply
  3. Matt

    Thanks for taking tbe time to reply bro!
    A wise answer
    IMO church discipline can only be administered properly if the struggling one has a close and deep relationship with the church fellowship who loves them. This may not be that common anymore.
    As far as sin goes I believe no one goes to Hell because of their sin, all sin is paid for. Yet our sin may bring hell to earth.
    Failing to believe and receive Jesus and thus being born again a new creation leads to condemnation.
    Bless ya!

    Reply
    • Jason Clark

      Yeah, man! Relationship and love are key because discipleship its about trust. Thanks for the comments and encouragement! Blessings!

      Reply
  4. Tim Van Winkle

    You articulated this so well. Great job!

    Reply
    • Jason Clark

      Thank you, Tim!

      Reply

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