Many Christians intentionally or not, divide sins into two camps: the okay sins and the no no sins. We all, I am sure, can guess what the no no sins are. And that is precisely why they are the no no sins. Sexual immorality, swearing, and drunkenness in particular are the big no no sins, if you couldn't guess. These sins receive more stern treatment form the church than the okay sins, which practically includes everything else. If you are struggling with a no no sin in church, your fellow Christians would of course try to help you out, but that is the thing, they help you out in a way distinct from how they would help you with an okay sin. From that point on that you told them you struggled with a no no sin, your whole spiritual walk becomes tied with how well you are combating that sin. If you are falling into that sin, that must mean your faith is weak. If you are combatting the sin well, then that must mean your faith is strong.
On the other hand, if you are struggling with an okay sin, chances are you would not even know it, for the church does not care enough to bring it up. In addition, even if you are inward thinking enough to notice your own okay sin, it would not warrant any urgency. If you brought it up to your fellow believers, they would of course pray about it for you, but they would let it slide relatively easily. Say I told someone I struggled with gossiping about my friends. Chances are they would pray for me, and that would be that. They probably would never bring it up again. In addition, I would have experience little to no conviction that my sin should be dealt with now, or that it is particularly hurtful to anyone. In stark contrast to a no no sin, I would not feel that my spiritual walk was tied to my progression with that particular sin.
What is ridiculous about this whole thing is the great divide between the no no sins and the okay sins. Since when was there an "okay" sin? Yet there are several we passively accept while we actively fight to stop the no nos. According to the Bible, all sins are equally bad. Whenever the sins are listed in the Bible, no special preference is given to any particular sins. Sin is listed in Matthew 15:19- "For out of the heart come evil thoughts—murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander." Again many sins are listed in Mark 7:21-22- "For it is from within, out of a person’s heart, that evil thoughts come—sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance, and folly." Galatians 5:19-21 says:
The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealously, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.Notice that alongside sins consider no nos in the church such as sexual immorality and drunkenness lie sins that we Church going super Christians do not see as all that bad, such as selfish ambition and factions. All these sins condemn us to hell, yet we have the gall to point out sexual immorality and drunkenness as particularly looked down upon by God. Yet we ignore sins such as selfish ambition and faction. How many times have churches split into petty factions over minor, seemingly insignificant issues? How many times have pastors left their congregations astray to take a higher paying post? Or how many times have Christians taken the higher paying job out of selfish ambition and greed over the lower paying job that offered more opportunity to follow Christ? We commit sins all the time that are worthy of God's wrath, yet we single out certain sins as particularly worthy of God's wrath, or at least our wrath, when there is no Biblical basis for such behavior.
Since the no no sins are in actuality no worse in God's eyes than the okay sins, why do we treat the no no sins any differently? I believe at root of the issue lies the distinctness of the act. The sins we find the most atrocious are the ones that require a distinct physical act. Sex obviously requires a physical act, but so does drunkenness. Getting drunk requires us to deliberately drink alcohol. Swearing is looked down upon more than other verbal sins because it is a very distinctive identifiable act. Yet, sadly, such acts, while most distinct, are not necessarily more dangerous. They indeed can be, but so can many "okay" sins. Slander is particularly dangerous in my opinion. Tearing apart people's reputations, even in the "name of Jesus" is absolutely rotten. Few things are as terrible in my mind as tearing someone apart behind their back while you would never confront them to their face. This can be very subversive and destroy any Christian community from within quicker than almost anything else. Yet such behavior is very common in churches, indeed many Christians don't even bat an eye when they engage in such sin. Most don't even think of it as a sin, yet the damage they do with their tongue is devastating. James 3:6-10 shows vividly how dangerous the tongue is:
The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole body, sets the whole course of one’s life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell. All kinds of animals, birds, reptiles and sea creatures are being tamed and have been tamed by mankind, but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be.Did you see that! It says the tongue is "full of deadly poison!" The Bible takes the tongue seriously, so why don't we? Oh yeah, we take swearing seriously. If you swear, good church people will be sure to bat an eye. But what does more damage to others? An occasional swear? Or gossip that destroys someone's reputation? I will let you be the judge. And again, it is obvious that the more easily identifiable act, swearing, is looked down on more than the subtler act of slander. Either way, there is a blatant inconsistency in the Church in its attitudes to different sins, and this inconsistency must stop.
This obviously brings us to how this inconsistency should stop. Well, I have an opinion, and I shall share it. Stop treating certain sins as distinctly more evil than others. Stop telling people that struggle with "no no" sins that until they fix themselves, that further progress in their faith is impossible. Let people know that they can indeed still grow as Christians despite the fact that they sin. This should be a given, for everyone sins. But somehow we have developed a mindset that certain sins hold back spiritual development, this is not the case. Perhaps you have been perplexed in the past by a televangelist who fell into sexual sin, yet you thought for sure they were a great Christian. Well have you every thought that maybe they still were a great Christian? Perhaps it is better to ask ourselves why we demand perfection from other Christians for certain sins, when God has never once demanded perfection from us, but only that we accept his unconditional grace for our wickedness.
P.S. I would highly recommend "Jesus + Nothing = Everything" By Tullian Tchividjian. It does not deal precisely with what I am talking about, but it lends in my opinion a more scriptural approach to sin that many Christians miss. It makes it clear that Jesus should be our focus, not our sin.