Christians are notorious for dealing with sin in all the wrong ways. There is always a tendency to deal with it too leniently or too harshly. Sometimes a Christian deals with his or her own sins too leniently and with the sins of others too harshly. Occasionally it’s the other way around. A certain Christian might carry a heavy burden of guilt for his or her sins but be overly lenient on the sins of others.
A proper way to deal with sin is to take it seriously but not to treat it too harshly. What does that mean?
1. Acknowledge that a certain sin–or that sin in general–is wrong and bad. Don’t say, “It doesn’t really matter.” It does matter–to God and often to other people who suffer from a person’s sin.
2. Don’t minimize it. Don’t say, “It’s not SO bad.” All sin is bad and wrong, and in one way every sin is equally bad and equally wrong. Every sin, even the “small” ones, is a failure to meet the standard set by God. Jesus said, “Be perfect, even as your Father in heaven is perfect.” There is no point in saying that you are better than other people, since you are certainly not as good as God, and He is the standard.
3. Realize that committing one sin is as bad as committing all of them. In the First Epistle of John it says that whoever is guilty of breaking one of God’s commandments is as guilty as a person who breaks them all. So even if you have not murdered or stolen anything, you are just as guilty of disobeying God’s law as the people who have.
4. Besides, it is likely that you have murdered or stolen in your heart. Jesus said that if you have hatred or unresolved anger in your heart, it is as though you committed murder against the target. I’m sure that makes most of us murderers. If you covet what somebody else has, you have stolen it in your heart. You are guilty of the sin of greed and selfishness.
5. Recognize that all of the teachings on sin in the Bible leave us utterly helpless and hopeless on our own. That’s why the Gospel is “Good News”–it’s literal meaning in Greek. It is good news, because what we are utterly unable to do–redeem ourselves and atone for our own sins–Jesus did for us. We cannot be perfect, but Jesus can make us perfect. We cannot be sinless, but He declares us innocent of all sin.
6. So, own up to your sin. Don’t blame somebody else or try to excuse or justify it. There is not use in trying to hide it from God. He knows what you did, so you might as well confess it to Him. If the sin harms others, then confess it to them and make restitution if you can.
7. Realize that being a sinner makes a person the same as everyone else. You are no worse or better than anyone else, in the grand scheme of things. Nor is your neighbor, ultimately, better or worse than you. All of us are guilty of sin–some more dramatic or consequential than others. Nevertheless, not one of us can claim to be without sin. We cannot cast the first stone. We cannot try to take the speck out of our neighbor’s eye, because that beam in our own eye blocks our view.
8. When someone else sins, we should be ready to forgive and restore that person. We should remember that we are guilty of our own sins and could end up guilty of the same sin as the one that our brother has committed. We mustn’t stand proudly before God and say, “I thank you that I am not like that person.”
9. Jesus died on the cross to somehow take away the penalty of sin. One version of it is that He paid the price that we owed. Another is that He took our punishment. Another is that He demonstrated perfect repentance, even though He had nothing to repent of. Whichever way it is, because of His death on the cross, we can be free from the eternal consequences of sin. It really is good news.
10. We should realize that every sinner, no matter how bad, may receive Christ’s offer of forgiveness and salvation. No one is good enough to merit God’s favor, and nobody is bad enough to disqualify. In fact, only bad people (which really means everybody) are qualified for grace, since the good people (of which there are none) do not need it. Jesus said that only the sick need a doctor.
So, we should be hard, but not too hard on our own sins. We should be lenient, but not too lenient on the sins of others. If we are the sinner, we should confess our sin and make restitution and receive God’s forgiveness. If somebody else is the sinner, we should forgive and restore that person.