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…
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 to focus on the sin, punishment, or 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 in a male-dominated world, 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 had 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 are 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.
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