Sep 20, 2012

"Refined" Sins

I am leading a Wednesday night class at my church through Jerry Bridges book The Discipline of Grace.  I read this book about five years ago for the first time.  It had a huge impact on helping me rediscover the gospel and the power of grace.  Last night we were discussing chapter 2 in the book "The Pharisee and the Tax Collector".  As the title suggests, it is about Jesus parable in Luke 18.  It is easy on this side of the cross and the New Testament to see the obvious judgmentalism and hypocrisy of the Pharisee.  It's always easier to see Pharisaism in others, but it's often impossible to see in ourselves.

Also in this chapter, Bridges has a very good section on what he calls "refined sins" that we don't often talk about in church.  Here is an excerpt:
"A large part of our problem as evangelical believers is that we have defined sin in its more obvious forms-forms of which we are not guilty.  We think of sin in terms of sexual immorality, drunkenness, lying, cheating, stealing, and murder...Most often our sin problem is in the area I call "refined" sins.  These are the sins of nice people, sins that we can regularly commit and still retain our positions as elders, deacons, Sunday school teachers, Bible study leaders, and yes even full-time Christian workers."
Bridges then goes on to identify some of these more insipid sins that many of us as Christian believers will commit and then quickly excuse or ignore.  One of these is a critical and judgmental spirit.  Bridges talks about how so often we don't take seriously Christ's warning to remove our log before we try to examine the speck in another person's eye.  Many in the Christian church make it a continual part of their character to criticize and put down others, especially other Christians with whom they may have theological differences.  Often I picture the world looking at us like the two curmudgeons from the Muppet Show who never have a kind word to say.  Another refined sin identified by Bridges is gossip, "the endless recounting and passing on of the sins and misfortunes of others.  We seem to get a perverse delight out of being the bearer of bad news about other people."  Bridges reminds us of Paul's admonishment in Ephesians 4:29, "Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen."  If we really take that Scripture seriously, then we are not to use the words of our mouth to ever speak to or about someone unless we are doing it for their benefit and building them up in the faith.  In my opinion, that would solve many of the conflicts we have in churches today.

Bridges also identifies other "refined" sins that are not always frowned on as much in the church.  Some of these include resentment, bitterness, an unforgiving spirit towards others, impatience, and irritability.  Bridges does a masterful job reminding us that while some sins have greater degrees of consequence or horror in our eyes, all sin grieves God.  The sin of gossip grieves God as much as the sin of murder.  The sin of bitterness grieves God as much as the sin of sexual abuse.  We must never make lighter of our sin just because we have done a good job avoiding the "biggies".

Can you think of some other "refined" sins that you can think of that we often tolerate, excuse, or turn a blind eye to in the church?