I was young, maybe four years old. My family had just moved to a new (old) house in Philadelphia and my parents were practically refinishing the entire house. It was old, stone, with two story porches on the front and back, but needed some serious TLC. One night my family was out and my mom was working down in the basement and I was down there with her. She was on a ladder and wanting to be up high too, I climbed up on an old hutch. When I got a few feet off the floor, the entire hutch fell forward, crushing me between it and the cold, concrete floor. My eye was perfectly aligned with the rusty hinge where the door had been, and part of the nail punctured my skin and went down into my eye socket, perfectly dividing my eyeball and bone. My mom says that as she pulled the cabinet off of me, tears and blood were running down my face and she “just knew” I had popped my eyeball and would be blind in my left eye. Fortunately, and by the grace of God, there was no damage to my eye! The nail had missed my eye, and I was left with a gnarly black eye and stitches. The scar is still quite visible just at the corner of my eye.
Do you have a better story? A bigger scar? Americans tend to take a little bit of pride in our war stories as we laugh at ourselves, or take ourselves too seriously when we sit around and compare battle scars with one another. “Wait until you hear…” is a favorite line for children and adults alike. We often do not even listen to the completion of the story being told for readiness to tell our own tale of adventure or woe.
Sometimes Christians do the same with our sin. We glorify the past, think of the days of old, or give credit to someone’s faith because of the extent of the transformation that has happened in his life. When I was in High School I regularly felt like a lesser of a Christian, incapable of relating to others and having a weak testimony because God called me to salvation at a young age and I never had a season of extended darkness or intense rebellion. Sure, I made mistakes and had much to repent of, but I did not have a dynamic story of salvation from the pits. My scars could not compare.
Not only that, but we require others to have experienced what we are experiencing to be able to hold us accountable. We proclaim tolerance and justify our sin to the point that no one may speak into another’s life unless he has walked there. “You just cannot understand” we mutter as someone calls us to repentance, “You don’t know what it’s like”. And thus we make peace with sin.
“It is actually reported that there is immorality among you, and immorality of such a kind as does not exist even among the Gentiles, that someone has his father’s wife. You have become arrogant and have not mourned instead, so that the one who had done this deed would be removed from your midst.”
– 1 Cor 5.1-2
But this is taken only to an extent. There are sins that we are unwilling to forgive or even listen to the details of. Sins that do not enhance our testimony before one another. And each denomination has one or two for which they assign a scarlet letter. For the Catholics the hardest one might possibly be abortion; the Baptists, divorce.
Yes, abortion and divorce are heinous and ugly sins. God hates them both. But if a person has repented, Christ died on the cross and paid the punishment for that sin. Who are we to then judge again that which has been forgiven? And worse yet, when a person was an unwilling participant in such an event, why would we condemn and ostracize one in a season of pain and need?
Sin is ugly. Every sin is damnable. It dishonors God and disgraces the one who did it. And salvation from the bondage to sin in any life is a miracle, a marvel and a beautiful story.
I once knew someone who claimed to be a Christian but whenever he met someone with a dynamic testimony, he only wanted to hear the depth of depravity of the former life. He wanted to hear about the drugs, the alcohol, the jail time, the darkness. In contrast, I once had a coworker who had lived as a hippy during the 70’s and indulged the full extent of that lifestyle. After God called her and her husband to repentance, she refused to dwell on the sin and only praised God saying, “Praise God for that from which He saved us!” She would not tell the stories of the darkness. She would tell the stories of redemption.
This is the goal. To praise God. Giving thanks always, in all things (1 Thess 5.18), and making great his name!
Experience with a sin in the past can certainly lend one valuable for advice and wise counsel in combating that particular sin. If you are caught by a sin of habit, it is wise to enlist the help of a mature believer to help you conquer said sin in your life. However, The battle against sin is both deep and broad, and all Christians are heavily engaged in it. Do not justify your sin and refuse to let others speak truth into your life for their lack of experience in it. If you are an alcoholic, someone who is passionately in love with God who has never had a sip of alcohol can lovingly speak truth and hold you accountable. He might have fought the battle of addiction to pornography or pride. If you hate your wife and are setting your plan to leave her, someone who has never been married can understand God’s hatred of divorce and encourage you to love selflessly and choose to obey God’s Word. He might fight to love and respect his boss or co-worker.
Let God’s word define sin in your life and let His grace lead you to repentance. Embrace the help and counsel of any in your life who love you and would seek your maturity and growth.
And let us not harbor ill will towards one whom the Lord has forgiven! When one has repented, God has forgiven him. We may not inflict greater judgment than God has already poured out on Jesus Christ. And if we do, we nullify the cross and dishonor Him.
Let us quit comparing scars. Let us praise God for the beautiful work that He is doing, and look only at those beautiful scars that establish our hope and eternity.
“For you have been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps, who committed no sin, nor was any deceit found in His mouth; and while being reviled, He did not revile in return; while suffering, He uttered no threats, but kept entrusting Himself to Him who judges righteously; and He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed. For you were continually straying like sheep, but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Guardian of your souls.
– 1 Peter 2.21-25