The “S” Word

In modern society, we don’t want to say the word “sin.” In my generation, at least, the concept of sin has been so maligned that the word itself is uncomfortable to speak, even for those of us who know its reality. It’s one of those trigger words that automatically discredits the speaker, relegating something that should be serious to the level of unicorns and pixies.

Even among believers, the concept of sin is so misused that it has been rendered toxic (and before I could speak to society’s sin dysfunction, I have to look at the confusion in the church.)

Sin Among Christians

For a meaningful proof of this, take a concordance and look up the word sin. Do a quick count of how many times sin is associated with condemnation or destruction and how many times it is associated with forgiveness or repentance.

My point is simple: In God’s vocabulary, sin would be defined something like this: “Sin is man trying to run away from the best possible thing that could happen to him.” God’s vocabulary also has words in it like “condemnation” and “destruction” but their meanings are almost directly opposed to that of sin. Sin is damage done to our relationship with God that must be repaired.

Try this: When you think of sin, instead of associating it with condemnation or destruction, think of it in terms of a sad mistake to be fixed. As I’ve come to understand, that’s quite close to how God sees it.

Society’s malady

Secular society mocks sin in the same way that Atheism mocks God. To society, sin is the ultimate acknowledgment of personal guilt.

There are only two responses to such an acknowledgment. First is to accept and attempt to live with guilt (which leads us to the cross and Christ). Second is to deny the reality of that guilt.

This is the malady of society. They deny their guilt, and in so doing deny reality and substitute their own delusions. Because God’s reality is always there, the bedrock on which everything is built, the only way to deny it is to run from it. This can be done with mockery or simple denial, or by keeping one’s attention entirely away from that reality.

In the end, the reality is that our sin is a terrible separation from the God who loves us. It is not an arbitrary judgment on us or a condemnation. It is a simple acknowledgment that we’re running away from Him.

Live Libertarian

Because the word Libertarian has so many connotations, It would be easy to misunderstand what I mean when I say “Live Libertarian.”

First, understand that we are called to live, not under the law, but under grace.

1 Corinthians 6:12 “All things are lawful for me, but all things are not helpful. All things are lawful for me, but I will not be brought under the power of any.”

As the founders of the USA so eloquently put it, we are given the rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness by the almighty God. Even more than that, we as Christians are free from sin, in Christ.

Second, understand that as much as we are called to live under grace, so we are called to extend the same grace to everyone else that is extended to us.

Do not expect others to live in any particular way. Extend to those around you the assumption that they are free to live however they choose, free from your judgment or disapproval provided they don’t damage the lives of those for whom you personally are responsible.

Romans 14:2-4 “One person believes he may eat anything, while the weak person eats only vegetables. Let not the one who eats despise the one who abstains, and let not the one who abstains pass judgment on the one who eats, for God has welcomed him. Who are you to pass judgment on the servant of another?”

Finally, what is meant by living libertarian is simply making this basic approach natural to the way we see the world.

LIVE this. Don’t just appreciate it or agree with it. Make it a habit and integrate it into the way you approach life.

This doesn’t mean that you approve of everything that people around you do, but before you can reach out a hand to help, you have to understand what it means to allow others to live their own lives.

There is a world of difference between demanding change of others and offering them change. By nature, demanding is not going to lead to good things. Offering change may be a good thing, but for some of us, learning not to judge instinctively what the people around us are doing and automatically offer disapproval can be really difficult.

In a healthy society, appreciating the people around you for the good they offer must eclipse the drive to make the people around you be “good” (or the compulsion to see yourself as somehow being better than others, for whatever reason comes in handy first…)

Live libertarian means that you give everyone around you the freedom to do or say what they choose without you instinctively analyzing their behavior and deciding whether you disapprove.

Judge Not

Matthew 7: 1-2 Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.

Romans 14:4 Who are you to pass judgment on the servant of another? It is before his own master that he stands or falls. And he will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make him stand.

Judgment is a difficult subject.

On the one hand, it is fair to say that in order to live holy lives we have to make judgments about what behaviors are right and wrong. This is a tautology.
On the other hand, it is also fair to say that we are all God’s servants and that we must not judge each other. We stand or fall before God alone.

Is it fair, then, to say that we should judge behaviors and not people?

If only it were that simple.

As human beings, it is a natural thing to see other peoples’ behaviors as reflecting on them and defining their personal character. And, to bring the point squarely home, that is exactly how God Himself sees people, isn’t it? We ARE made in His image.

The difficulty comes from that original sin, when Adam and Eve chose the “knowledge of good and evil” over “life” and thereby took on themselves the “right” to decide what is good and what is evil.

Behavior naturally bleeds into character, and character naturally bleeds into value. Once we start to judge someone, we naturally move from behavior to character to value, sometimes very quickly. (Most people will deny that–“I don’t see him as being less valuable, just wrong.” When you start to examine your heart, though, you’ll likely find that in some way you hold that person in contempt, and contempt is an explicit denial of another person’s value.)

So how can we do this RIGHT?

It comes down to the attitudes of the heart.

We MUST understand our proper place in this equation. God alone determines value. We are usually accurate about behavior and sometimes we can take a stab at character based on that behavior (usually a guess more than a judgment). Beyond that, we have no place at all in the equation, even in regard to OURSELVES.

The purpose for our judgment is entirely confined to two items.
First, the condition of our own hearts.
Second, the elevation of those around us.

Exercising judgment in regard to other people outside these two purposes leads us inexorably into evil.

Romans 14: 12-13 So then each of us will give an account of himself to God. Therefore let us not pass judgment on one another any longer, but rather decide never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of a brother.

We must look to the condition of our own hearts, and we must do our best to give aid to those around us. If your design is purely to give aid and your heart is right, then you may be able to contribute something of value to those around you. This is part of our responsibility to our brothers and sisters. The instant you give in to frustration or contempt (“He’s not LISTENING.”), you have nullified your usefulness.

Beware the demander and the commander.

I lived for a long time in an environment where peoples’ first instinct on seeing another person “doing it wrong” was to set them straight.

The central point of this topic is as follows:  a useful offering comes from a helpful heart, one that loves and does not think of self.

Anything that enters the realm of a demand or commandment bears the mark of witchcraft–coercing someone else to do things your way against their will. Examine yourself. Be certain that your own actions do not demand or command others, and reflect on your heart before you cast judgment.