Wednesday, October 14, 2009

The Difference Between Sins and Sinners

Our job as Christians is to love God and to love each other. Sin is what happens when we deviate from that mission. I've discovered that sin often leads to more sin, and one person's mistake can disrupt many people's love. I can't ignore sin, but it's my duty as a Christian to confront it without sacrificing my love for God or others. As I've struggled with this problem, I've discovered that the single most important tool I have is the knowledge that there is a difference between sins and sinners. As a Christian, I am called to judge actions, not people. I have to be able to call a choice bad without condemning the person who made it. I have to go on loving people even after I see them hurt others, and I have to remember that even sinners are made in God's image.

To help me visualize the important distinction between sins and sinners, I imagine that a person is a beautiful garment conceived by a brilliant designer, sewn by a master tailor, and made of the finest materials. Then I imagine that sin is an unsightly stain. When the garment becomes stained, we may be tempted to call it ugly, but it's not really. It's still a beautiful garment—it just needs to be cleaned. If people keep sinning and don't seek forgiveness, they could become so stained that no one can even imagine the beautiful garment underneath anymore, but God's forgiveness is so powerful that it can remove any stain. Underneath the stain, the garment is still beautiful and priceless—it's the stain that's repulsive.

People may taint themselves with bad behavior, but underneath they still have the potential that lies within all people because they are created in the image of God. As a Christian I should expose sin when I find it, but I should do that so that the stain can be cleansed away, not to punish the person who wears the stain. If I approach someone with anger and condemnation, I may only drive the stain in deeper, but with love I may be able to help remove it.

When I want to remove a stain from a piece of clothing that I'm particularly fond of, I don't waste time discussing whose fault the stain is or what that person's punishment should be. Instead I concentrate on removing the stain as quickly and thoroughly as possible so I can go back to enjoying my beautiful garment. It won't really help me to just sit around feeling indignant that someone allowed this stain to happen. Sure, it's helpful to try to figure out how the stain happened so that I can try to prevent future stains, but no revenge for this stain will help me protect my garment. Likewise, I want to help prevent and eradicate sin from the world around me, but only so my brothers and sisters and I can love each other freely as God intended. After all, love is the entire point.

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