Sinners sin. This is not breaking news. It shouldn’t surprise me, but it does. In other non-breaking news: Liars lie. Gossipers gossip. Slanderers slander. Manipulators manipulate. Troublemakers make trouble. All of this is elementary. It’s Life Basics 101. So why is it so shocking when it happens?
We want to believe that sinful people don’t act sinful. They do. We want to believe the best in people. Deep down we know: we have, we are, and (apart from the grace of God), we will in the future sin too. Sinners are us. We want to think that the wide, crowded road is full of nice, heaven bound people, and the narrow, sparse road is where the sinners are. But Jesus said it’s just the opposite. You know Paul’s words, we are the first big bump on the Roman’s Road evangelism tool, “we all have sinned” (Romans 3:23).
Wouldn’t it be nice if mean people weren’t mean or gossipers didn’t gossip? They are and they do. Usually it’s not murder. Most people don’t rob banks either. But sinners sin– to get out of a jam; to settle a score; to make themselves look smarter, better, richer, cleverer. There are a million reasons why sinners sin and all of those reasons end in pain and trouble. That’s what sin does. It’s a death trap. Literally.
When we are on the receiving end of sinful people’s sin—it’s upsetting. And (here comes another non-shocker) it hurts. When liars lie, we tell ourselves, “it’s a lie. Don’t get upset. You know the rule: Sticks and stones…” But lies still hurt. The wounds from sticks and stones heal a lot faster than the pain from words or social media posts. Sinners sin and sin hurts.
What should be our response when sinful people sin? Our job is not to convict them of their sinning ways. That’s the Holy Spirit’s business, which means it’s a little bit above our pay grade. You might not like what our job is (especially if the wounds are fresh, so hold on…). Our Job is to forgive and love and forgive some more and pray for them. Jesus said, “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” (Matthew 5:44). In another place in the same sermon, He said, “For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.” (Matthew 4:14-15). Gulp! When sinners sin, we are to: Love. Pray. Forgive. Repeat.
Jesus didn’t say forgiving those who have hurt us would be easy. It’s not. He also didn’t say to lash back, write an equally hurtful social media post, or seek revenge. Love, pray and forgive, that’s it. Love. Pray. Forgive. I’ll be honest, it’s really hard. I’m still working on it. To steal a line from Joe Biden, “Here’s the deal,” when I mess up and sin, I want people to forgive and love and forgive some more and pray for me. My guess is that you would want the same in your sins and screw-ups. If we want love, forgiveness, the benefit of the doubt and prayers, then we must be willing to offer that same grace when other sinners sin. It’s not easy. Good thing the author of Hebrews reminds us, “The Lord is my helper!” (Hebrews 13:6).