Hello, my name is Toni and I’m a sinner.
Just like you.
And your friends.
And the most religious person you know.
And your mama too.
I’m not going to lie (because that’s a sin). When you try really hard to dedicate your life to Jesus, two things become more and more difficult. 1. It’s hard to not sin yourself. 2. It’s hard to watch others sin. I’d venture to say that watching others sin is more difficult because we tend to see the sin of others much more clearly than we see our own.
It’s something I struggle with constantly.
Especially when the people I love seem to enjoy the sin one minute, and then, are suffering consequences from it the next. I hate to see people suffer from anything. Ultimately, I’m left with one question: Do I talk to them in love, or do I say nothing? It especially becomes an issue for me if we’ve talked in love about this before, and their behavior doesn’t change.
And the last thing I want to do is sound preachy, or perfect, or holier than thou. But sometimes, even when my intention is to speak in love that’s not how it comes out.
Where does this come from, you may ask? Spring. And maybe summer. That’s when I noticed it. This past spring. After my 25th conversation with a friend about a romantic relationship she was in, I realized some things about the relationship. For her, this relationship was the following:
A relationship where she got way too involved physically than she should have without the commitment of marriage.
A relationship where she was constantly accused of seeing other men.
A relationship where arguments were the preferred method of communication.
A relationship where she was accused of loving God too much.
When I was going through my ever-so-hormonal adolescent years, my mother said that the season of spring always brought out weird behaviors in people. Her exact words were, “People think they are in love because the sun is shining and the weather is warmer, but they aren’t,” she said. “The unfortunate thing is that they do some really stupid things in the name of this false love…I blame spring.”
Oh, did I mention that this particular friend, in this particular relationship, used her feminine prowess in an attempt to convince him that she really was the woman for him?
And when none of those things ended well, she called me.
I listened, I talked, and I prayed.
In case you were wondering, she and the guy she was involved with are Christians. They just happen to have fallen into sin. And while this issue with this friend is about a dating relationship (if you want to call it that), there are other sins we can fall into. Excessive gambling, marital infidelity, lying, stealing, and even lusting after someone are just a few.
And for me, the very personal issue I’ve had with sin relates to idolatry. Sigh. To be honest, it’s a continuous vice for me. One that has lasted years, not just a season. So in addition to praying through and dealing with my friends’ issues, my own issues, I’m struggling with my own.
By the way, the idolatry thing is so real that I have been known to stop reading books by my favorite authors when they bring the subject up.
Idolatry is a real thing for me, y’all. So real that I cringe every time I open the Old Testament. You know…because idolatry is all over the Old Testament.
But we’re not talking about me here, and in case you’re in a holier-than-thou mood right now, I am addressing my issue through prayer and accountability partners. When I do listen and talk to the people I love about their sin, I am spending my energy and time trying to help them when nothing seems to change. That’s when I become agitated. Then I remember though, there’s a fine line between listening, giving advice, and being judgemental.
And being hypocritical…because I sin too. #Idolatry
“You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge another, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things.” Romans 2:1
So this is what I do — in hopes that I can make a difference — while knowing that I can befriend the sinner, I just shouldn’t befriend the sin.
- I stay in regular and constant contact with God, Jesus, the Holy Spirit, the Bible, all of it. Now more than ever, I need discernment and direction as you help my friends and myself deal with sin.
- Pray for them. Call their names. Pray without ceasing. I ask the Holy Spirit to give me the words I need to say when I advise someone else. And while I’m praying, I call out my own sin, and if I act like I can’t remember, I ask the Lord for a gentle reminder.
- Guard your heart. Protect yourself from falling into that place…again. Some days I think I have been set up because the sins my friends are struggling with are the very ones I have been delivered from, and you know…they still pop as an issue for me every now and then, but I have to guard my heart. I avoid the triggers…special places, people, and conversations that will make me feel a little weak. And most importantly, I have people in my life who I can confess my weaknesses to and they will talk me off the proverbial bridge of sin.
- Be honest when you need to. Do it in love, but do it in a way they can understand. This means that sometimes you will shock them, hurt their feelings, or be brutal if you need to. This past spring I found myself struggling with hearing about a sin situation with one of my closest friends and I told her the unadulterated truth. After the initial shock of hearing what I had to say, she was able to talk to God about it and get some resolve based on the Holy Spirit’s involvement in her life.
- Forgive them…70 times 7. Remember, we see the sin of others a lot more clearly than we see our own. I forgive them because trust me, one day I will need to be to forgiven for the sins of my own. And I can even stand the reminder that Jesus always forgives. Always.
- Recognize the importance of radical faith for your deliverance, for their deliverance, and for the deliverance of sins in general. No matter how bad sin is, and no matter how badly it makes you feel, it can always be forgiven by God. Have faith that the person you love will defeat the strongholds that plague them. Acknowledge that while they might seem a little hard-headed now, they can and will overcome this. After all, Jesus died for it.
- Use the waffle method. I have found that the best thing I can do in relation to others is to imagine my life as a waffle. The best part of every waffle is each, individual square. In my life, those waffle squares represent boundaries. For me to be able to look at a situation objectively, spiritually, and while responding in love, I must use boundaries and relegate each person to their square in my life.
There’s no question that battling sin will strengthen your dependence on God. Helping others battle it is the same…it takes you to a place of vulnerability and humility that only can only be met with His magnificent grace and favor. The flip side is that this situation will allow others to see you (or me) as a living demonstration of God’s grace.
Which is more difficult for you…battling your own sin or watching others struggle with sin?