Self-Dissociation: How A Christian Can Condemn The Very Sin He Loves Doing

February 23, 2012 — 9 Comments



We’re not surprised anymore when a famous preacher who blasts homosexuality gets caught in a homosexual affair doing meth. A governor who pursues ethics in Wall Street is busted for carousing with prostitutes. An actor turned governor turned actor hides a secret child outside his marriage for ten years, fully realizing his role as an actor. We’ve learned that Nazi doctors who ordered the deaths of countless people were also fathers and husbands, a phenomenon later coined “doubling.” At least a third of pastors are addicted to pornography. And half of Christian men are in the same boat.


Once you claim a standard, you’re claimed by that standard.

Even the reckless prodigal or the pseudo-reasonable atheist has claimed categories of superiority. They both sneer at the religious right. The only difference is a Christian works from a deficit: he is expected to be impeccably polite while an atheist lacks all accountability and likes it that way. The atheist has infinite loopholes when he falls — especially when he falls — while the Christian is ready to be hanged at any second for a single outburst.

It’s a sort of reverse bigotry. The non-religious gets in a scandal and it’s “business as usual.” The pastor destroys his marriage and he’s no longer qualified for ministry, or to be treated like a human being.

How far do we take this? If an atheist turned out to be an axe murderer, his atheism as a cover is as good as a cheap hooker’s dress. Try to call that the usual business and you’re likely to be called insane.

No matter who you are or claim to be, a standard has claimed you.

The late John Stott said, Nothing in history or in the universe cuts us down to size like the cross … It is there, at the foot of the cross, that we shrink to our true size.

While no one has a valid excuse for hypocrisy, a follower of Christ has more reason to keep it real. He is held accountable even when others are not. And if we claim no superiority, then we have no right to judge outside the church. We have every right to confront each other in the church, to build and not to destroy.

But we cannot ask of others what we first are not doing ourselves.


Paul says, Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.

Of course we’re not asked to do this perfectly. But we are called to do it passionately.

This also means we need to stop the comparison games. No one can rightfully say they’re better than another living person; the one who could was put on a cross.

We try to compare apples and oranges, like one sin is worse than the other.

A gossiper can so easily look down on a crackhead, as if gossip were a miniscule monster.

A porn addict takes comfort in not being a terrorist or murderer.

A lazy jobless middle-aged “man” claims he’s not cheating on his wife or beating his kids.

An upper-class businesswoman thinks the poor haven’t worked hard enough to get out of their misfortune.

A Reformed Calvinist blogger calls for doctrinal unity while he himself is a loveless, cold-hearted, doctrine-worshiping prig.

Really?


No one on earth anywhere can ever lift himself on a throne. That throne is taken. Our throne is dirt. Yet we must call out each others’ sins, even if we do it with our dirty sinful mouths. And if we’re to earn that right to rebuke, then we first begin knowing it’s a privilege, and not everyone is allowed such a sober, sacrificial duty.

No one should ever relish in the rebuke itself, but only rejoice in how it can restore.

We see in guilt-driven preachers how they use fear and shame to manipulate their listeners. Their God is a small god. They’re not so much yelling at the congregation as they are yelling at themselves. A preacher living a double-triple-multiple life will inevitably bleed into the pulpit. You can almost hear his desperate cry for help. I know this because I often hear it in myself.

I’d like to think a Christian publicly condemns the sin he loves because he so hates that sin in himself, and makes a sick, twisted, self-righteous effort to save others from it. As if saving were really his job. But mostly the hypocritical Christian does this out of a split-minded rationalization, to consume pleasure for himself in his “private life” while compensating to God in his public declarations. This sort of psychological contortion is unsustainable.


Can we all come clean here? May we know it’s better to be transparent and open and free to confess our filthy addictions? How much better it is to walk into church, into the presence of a holy gracious God, without having to hide a single thing. What a freedom. That even if we’re still stained, we have confidence God is working in us still, drawing us out of sin with His perfect love.

This can only happen in a church full of grace and honesty. The “perfect church” has none.

At the very least we must remember where we came from: complete darkness, a world of swirling pain, a cesspool of death and self-centered ego. When we know the depth of our sin, there’s no way we cannot be compassionate towards the lost. When we know the cost of our rescue, it’s impossible not to love with the same love.

Unity happens when we rejoice in humility: to say of ourselves that we were once dead in sin, still struggle on our way to the cross, and have no particular value that Jesus himself did not give us. Self-righteousness is a prisoner’s island. You don’t have to stay there. It’s messier out here, but better.


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9 responses to Self-Dissociation: How A Christian Can Condemn The Very Sin He Loves Doing

  1. 

    Wow. Your gift is telling it like it is. Keep doing it. I want to use this on my blog at some point.

  2. 

    This is great! So true. I’ve had countless conversations with people about feeling a need to look a certain way in church which in the end causes them to feel more condemnation than the freedom that Christ offers us. I really think that is the biggest form of bondage satan has on the church nowadays, the need to tell everyone else why they are wrong versus being honest in dealing with and admitting their own sin. If we were honest with each other as the body of Christ imagine the impact we would have on each other let alone the impact we could have on the world. I really enjoy your blog! Thanks for your truth!

  3. 

    I ran across your blog today; actually, I was searching for help. I am a pastor with a wonderful family and church. Only problem is I have secretly struggled with porn for 20 years. I feel as if the wheels are about to come off my life. There are certain firewalls I have refused to cross, but now I feel myself beginning to cross them.

    • 

      I’ll reply in an upcoming blog post very soon.
      Please seek help and counseling. Confess to a close friend. Going public with a friend is the first step to recovery.

  4. 
    In Need of Great Grace June 11, 2012 at 3:02 pm

    Very true. I find it vexing that whole attitude of one hungry, desititute, raggedly clothed beggar telling another in the same condition where to find a gracious provision of food is almost entirely missing. I”ve been very confused by pastors and other believers who, upon discovering sin, esp. when I’ve admitted it and that’s how they know, outwardly dispense casual, shallow grace and acceptance, as if it were originating from them because they are holy and together, and not from the sinless One who paved the way for our acceptance by the Father via the bloody cross. These soon reveal that they have inwardly judged and condmened you as if you are something that they are NOT. Its almost as if they think their own sin is somehow “cleaner” than that of others or non existent!

    As much as I struggle with difficult personal feelings of offense over being treated this pharisaical way, I realize that this is ultimately not about me, but about about something bigger. Its at this point I am undone as I realize that I am giving more evidence of not knowing Christ than of knowing Him when I am too ticked off at the church to care if what Christ died for is being corrupted, to intervene and storm heaven in prayer. How different than Moses, who said that if God could not forgive Israel for her heinous sin, then he would rather be blotted out of God’s book than go on without them! That awful delight in seeing them “get confronted” or even suffer consequences for hypocrisy is the tip of the iceberg where a laodicean heart is concerned. Satan would love for us to be so offended and embittered about suffering at the hands of shepherds who rule by their own authority and their supporters who love it so, that our offended feelings are more important to us than Jesus and what is important to Him. I’m glad to hear of this being discussed here. Thank you.

    • 

      Thank you for sharing. I agree. I have a tendency to focus on everything else except the cross: behavior, methods, my own struggle, my self-pity, my “how-dare-you,” my strength. The gospel aims to take us out of ourselves; most of us go kicking and screaming.

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