Sin is anaerobic. Exposed, it can be treated. In fact, it usually starves. Concealed, however, it grows and deepens, eating away whatever it has found that is willing to host it.
That said, I am often arrogant, judgmental, quick to criticize without seeking to understand another's position, and guilty of using big words in order to silence potential objections to my own positions. There's more to that list, but in this context, those are the most germane. (See, there's that vocabulary thing again.)
Still, there are sins that are evident to me precisely because of my own struggles with them. And there are others that become obvious due to the pain they cause others. Most of those I recognize, however, are the ones that harm, threaten, or even simply annoy me.
As is often noted, Christians are not perfect. But we are not “just forgiven.” When confronted with our sins, we are repentant; we confess; and we seek restoration through forgiveness. We sometimes are woefully ignorant of the harm caused by our attitudes and actions, until someone loves us enough to point them out. Our reaction to that revelation of our imperfections, misunderstandings, and/or unfortunate choices (and especially our willful sins) depends in large part upon our willingness to trust Christ to bring a greater level of maturity to our dependence upon His righteousness, as opposed to defending our own self-righteousness.
Here’s a brief case-study that you may already have been forced to consider by some of your Facebook friends.
Yesterday, a Facebook post by Pastor Rick Warren ignited significant criticism from Chinese believers and church leaders. It also resulted in almost universal support (3,955 “likes” as of 4:00 a.m. today) from non-Chinese, primarily Anglo “followers” of Pastor Warren. (For those outside the confines of Evangelical culture, Pastor Warren is famous as the founder of Saddleback Community Church, a mega-church originally programmed on the basis of then-innovative market-research into the “felt needs” of “Saddleback Sam…married to Samantha, and…two kids, Steve and Sally.”)
Using the confident, can-do attitude embodied by a young woman’s posterized image as his icon, Pastor Warren posted: “The typical attitude of Saddleback Staff as they start work each day.” A very clever, even cute comment, evidently intended to encourage a sense of comrade-ry…which is ironic since the young woman depicted actually is a “comrade,” wearing the uniform and armband of Communist China’s Red Guard. For a clearer understanding of how offensive this image is, I would refer you first to Dr. Sam Tsang’s post, at “Rick Warren, Cultural Sensitivity, and Mission,” http://engagethepews.wordpress.com/2013/09/23/rick-warren-cultural-sensitivity-and-mission/comment-page-1/#comment-283.
What concerns me in the context of conflict resolution and relational reconciliation (the goals of the protocol that Jesus gives us in Matthew 18:15-18) is the response Pastor Warren offers to those shocked by his insensitivity (perhaps initially through simple ignorance) regarding the image’s impact on so many. He wrote, “People often miss irony on the Internet. It's a joke people! If you take this seriously, you really shouldn't be following me! Did you know that, using Hebrew ironic humor, Jesus inserted several laugh lines- jokes - in the Sermon on the Mount? The self-righteous missed them all while the disciples were undoubtedly giggling!”
If I may, let me suggest to the nearly 4000 who “like” the inflammatory post that they should take this seriously, and really shouldn’t be following Pastor Warren. (Even if repentance, confession, and forgiveness result in restoration—follow Jesus instead, okay?) If the point is still lost on those who have little or no sense of Chinese history, perhaps we might recognize that the following Hebrew irony should be just as unthinkable.
If this were hanging on Saddleback’s walls,
would we then be “undoubtedly giggling?”