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Your Idea of Sin Sucks

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I was hoping to visit a new church this past Sunday, and looked up an old church I use to attend when I first moved to the city several years ago. I was really disappointed to see that the founding pastor had left and that the church seemed to have gone in a different direction. I decided to browse through their website to try to get a feel for what the church was like now. The new pastor had a little welcome video, so I watched that. The guy is old school Baptist and used to teach at a prestigious — well, at least a well-respected, conservative — Bible college. And his video reflected exactly what you’d think. Lots of church language that punched all my sensitive buttons and made me rethink whether I wanted to visit this place afterall. What clinched it though, was when he talked about his desire as a pastor for “sin to grow sour in our mouths” … I just felt my spirit cringe. And that was it. I was done.

I can only imagine what their version of sin would be. And this is the relevant point. From time to time I get asked that basic question: What is sin? And if you’ve grown up in the church, or spent any amount of time in church at all, you’re probably likely to start with the Ten Commandments. And from there you’ll soon find yourself spinning out into dozens and dozens of other little commandments until you end up with a list of about 613 new rules. (In case that number doesn’t mean anything to you, it’s the number of commandments in the Hebrew Bible – what many in the church world like to call “Old Testament Law.”)  So much for Christian liberty and being free from “the Law.”

As a gay Christian with lots of gay, lesbian and transgender friends, I could only imagine what that pastor would tell us were sins in our lives that needed to be repented of. So yeah, the next thing I checked out was the section on their website about what they believe, and looked specifically for their statement on homosexuality. And sure enough, they take the old traditional stance that it’s sinful, part of the corrupt human nature, and can be cured — or at least controlled — by prayer, accountability, and counseling. In other words, an ex-gay program. #ChristianFail

To be honest, the very fact that he even was talking about sin in his introduction video kinda turned me off. Did I really want to be part of a church that focused on sin?

Sure, as a Christian I know that sin-consciousness occupies a big part in the teaching of the church. But in my opinion, sin is best addressed by focusing on love. We don’t need sermons or lectures on the things that are wrong with us or the things that we need to change to make us better people or more pleasing in God’s sight. Nobody needs fingers pointed in their faces — go and sin no more! The Church would be better served by helping us have a closer walk with God — and the sin part will take care of itself.

If we call ourselves Christians and are actually concerned about what commandments Jesus said we should follow, we’d quickly realize that there is only one law or rule we need to focus on. And that is the law of love. Jesus broke that into two parts, loving God, and loving each other. And, as a friend recently pointed out, he added a third part too: loving our enemies. Seems to me, everything is covered in that one overarching law. So if we can learn to love, sin won’t even be an issue.

So, what is the definition of sin anyway? The Biblical languages have several words for the various types and shades of sin, but I’d say they all boil down to anything that contradicts the law of love. As simple as that. That might be why Jesus never saw fit to hand down to us another set of tablets or lengthy lists of do’s and don’ts.

If you’re doing something or saying something or maybe even thinking something that is hateful or harmful to someone else, that is sin.

And frankly, when it comes to sinning against God, I think that pretty much covers doing anything harmful or hateful to each other. God is concerned about how we treat each other. And yes, I’m sure there are other acts that are offensive to God himself, that might be considered “sinning against God” — but truthfully, at this moment, I can’t think of one. Even our anger or shouting matches at God, our doubts or our “blasphemies,” don’t seem to trouble God that much. He’s a big boy. He can handle it.

Likewise, if we do something harmful or demeaning to ourselves, that is sin. It breaks the law of loving ourselves. We are made in the image of God, and that image deserves some respect. Jesus said we were to love our neighbors as ourselves, but if we don’t love ourselves how can we love our neighbor? So inherent in his command to love others is the command to love ourselves. I guess that would be the fourth part of that single law of love. (The Church could sure stand to spend some time teaching on how to do this in a healthy way, instead of beating us up all the time. Just a thought.)

So then: Love God. Love each other. Love your enemies. Love yourself. Anything that contradicts that is sin.

With that basic definition in place, we no longer need a never-ending list of do’s and don’ts. We also no longer need someone telling us all about our sins — or really, things they find offensive about us, things they want us to change.

The Golden Rule suddenly takes on a whole new importance in that light. “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” is the same as “love your neighbor as yourself.” Likewise, the flipside of that is “don’t do unto others what you don’t want done to yourself.” Everything that falls under that definition is sin.

And frankly, that means someone pointing their finger at me, telling me that my love for another person is sinful, is an act of sin itself. It is contrary to the law of love. So, Is it a Sin? Is it a sin if I bad-mouth my boss? Or get wasted Saturday night? Is it a sin if I sleep with my boyfriend or girlfriend? What about watching porn? Does it violate the law of love — loving God, loving others, loving myself? Is it hateful or harmful? Then there’s your answer.

So, my two cents worth to those occupying pulpits across America and around the world is to focus on teaching us how to love God, love each other, and love ourselves better. And leave creating a new set of Stone Tablets to the One who can write them with his finger.

STEVE SCHMIDT serves as Teaching Pastor at Expressions.Today in Oklahoma City. He is a graduate of the seminary at Oral Roberts University in Tulsa, OK, and holds two masters degrees in Biblical Literature and Divinity. He did his doctoral research at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and at the Jewish Theological Seminary of America in New York.

He is editor of IMPACT Magazine, and blogs here on the Cafe Inspirado column. Plus you can find him making random comments about life on Facebook.

27 comments

  1. Robert L /

    Watching a welcome video like that would immediately turn me off too. I want to see community, family, and making a difference in the world as being the focus. >(

    • Steve Schmidt /

      yep: you’d think in a welcome vid, they’d highlight what they’re really about. And if it’s “sin”, umm …. pass.

  2. Love, Love, Love this! Perfect timing with Valentine’s Day approaching! Let’s all get busy living our love out!

  3. Neill C /

    Great word!

  4. For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions,

  5. Laurel D /

    2 Timothy 3:1 through 4:4. We cannot have the sheep deciding what they “need.” What the sheep say they need and what God says they need too often don’t match. So, um, I’ma go with the One who predicted His own death, laid down His own life for my SINS, and then raised His own self up from the dead while He was dead.

  6. does that mean you read the piece and agree, or just saying?

  7. Aaron D /

    I like that “sin to grow sour in our mouths”.

  8. Joanne V /

    If individuals and pastors focussed on being more loving than the people they want to condemn, if our only competitiveness was to love more than others, how much would this transform us and impact our world as well.

  9. Steve Schmidt…you make me think…and think…and think…and think…and…

  10. When you really think about it, there’s only one sin: Indifference to unjust human suffering.

  11. If God’s Word doesn’t mean His promise of peace and prosperity for all as soon as we stop pointing the finger at each other, I don’t know what it means.

  12. Darla M /

    ” But in my opinion, sin is best addressed by focusing on love. ” I agree with that.

  13. Brian A /

    Folk don’t need more condemnation,they need practical teaching on how to live a Christian life….discipleship 101

  14. Darla M /

    Not at all! I like the whole article…that particular sentence just seemed central to me, as love is always the fulfillment of the law. As far as sin is concerned, let’s remember that Jesus didn’t spend a lot of time discussing any particular individual sins, with the exception of hypocrisy and greed. He answered questions about a sin if someone brought it up (hence the discussion about divorce), but that was about it. Rather than discussing “sins”, He discussed “sin”…the sin nature. He didn’t come to discuss offenses to God and rule breaking; He came to become sin on the cross that we might have righteousness. He also spoke of the sin nature as an illness…”those who are well don’t need a physician,” He said. The work of grace and the gift of the Holy Spirit is about sweeping out the house and curing the illness….progressively as we walk with Him. I can’t change myself, and I’ve stopped trying. I don’t even worry about what does or does not need to be changed…I just let Him have His way with my soul. He’ll do the heavy lifting…I just let Him lead.

  15. CBK Pastor Joey B /

    Steve Schmidt, thank you for the courage to post your feeling. I COMPLETELY agree that reminding people of their sin is in no way “Helping” them walk closer with Jesus. We must do as the Spirit does after regeneration of our dead lives, and that is… “Convict Believers of their Righteousness.” The believer is automatically perfect, righteous, holy, accepted, well pleasing, blessed, and a joy in God’s sight due to the Finished Work of Jesus Christ. I have found in my experience as a Pastor that reminding people who they are in Christ and showing them love in all circumstance is what truly matures a Christian. Think about a man who is constantly called a fool by his wife, eventually he doe in fact become that fool due to the death spoken over his life, but if that same man is spoken to as a king, he will in turn act as a King. So telling people they are righteous, blessed, holy, and accepted will always make it easier for them to walk the part as well. This is what my Ministry is all about (Comeback Kids Ministries in Stockton, CA). We tell people who they are in Jesus, the plans God has for them and we love and accept them no matter what. We all have a sing problem… Its called out “Flesh” which will not being going away until we behold Jesus face to face and are given our new bodies. Even if a man “Could” be a perfect and righteous person in “Action” he would still be condemned a sinner by his flesh. If a man could walk Perfect in “Action” he would still be condemned a sinner by the most minute perverted thing in his mind. If in doubt, we must remember that Paul, an Apostle who knew a thing or two about converting people to Christ and helping them grow, he told us “The Goodness of God leads to Repentance.” Amen? Amen!!!

  16. Steve Schmidt you write – “As a gay Christian with lots of gay, lesbian and transgender friends, I could only imagine what that pastor would tell us were sins in our lives that needed to be repented of. So yeah, the next thing I checked out was the section on their website about what they believe, and looked specifically for their statement on homosexuality. And sure enough, they take the old traditional stance that it’s sinful, part of the corrupt human nature, and can be cured — or at least controlled — by prayer, accountability, and counseling. In other words, an ex-gay program” I’m curious to know how you view homosexuality in the light of scripture, I mean, do you believe God would ordain and bless a same-sex marriage?

    • Hey Rick. To answer your question, I do not view homosexuality as sin. But I didn’t come to that conclusion lightly or dismissively. It actually came thru a long process of reading the NT, particularly John, Acts & Romans. (Those 6 biblical passages often quoted on homosexuality have been dealt with ad nauseum in countless books, so no sense repeating that stuff here. Plus, academic arguments about bible interpretation are seldom convincing.) One of the key “triggers” for me was Peter’s vision in Acts 10. God actually instructed Peter to break the Law, to eat forbidden food. Peter resists — How could God ever condone such a thing? And God insists, 3 times. Of course the passage is talking about people, not food — it was symbolic of Peter embracing Gentiles into the new Jewish faith. But the point remains: “don’t call anything/anyone unclean whom God has made clean” — despite what the black-letter of Scripture says. Go figure. That was God himself saying that. Surely that same principle applies to gay people, gay love relationships, etc. These are people whom God dearly loves. And their “sexual sin” (if it even were considered such) is so insignificant in God’s eyes as to be overlooked by him. Love is greater than “sin” — Jesus proved it, God repeatedly demonstrated it. But even if it WERE to be considered sin, then it would be no worse than eating bacon. So yeah, I do believe in same-sex marriage, since I believe it is the relationship of two humans being blessed by God, not so much about their plumbing.

      BTW, I appreciate the grace with which you are engaging here. 🙂

      • Ok, thanks Steve Schmidt, just wanted to find out more, and understand from your perspective.

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