Respectable Sins: Confronting The Sins We Tolerate
As a follower of Jesus Christ, what issues of right and wrong really upset you? Environmental practices? Militarism? Economic disparity in our nation, or between nations? The indebtedness of poor nations to the wealthy west? Abortion? The difference between the Bible’s sexual code of conduct and what you see around you? Perhaps you are politically aligned and have a jaundiced view of conduct on either the right or left side of the political spectrum.
If you identify with any one of the above, Respectable Sins: Confronting the Sins We Tolerate is written for you. Jerry Bridges addresses Christians who are preoccupied with some of the major sins of society, but indulge in “‘respectable’ or even ‘acceptable’ sins without any sense of sin.” He reminds readers that all sin is serious in God’s eyes (James 2:10).
The first several chapters speak generally about the Bible’s view of sin and about strategies for addressing sin in one’s life. Then, armed with relevant Bible passages, he identifies some of the sins into which a Christian can easily stray. I found it an arresting study.
For example, the writer describes ungodliness as “living one’s everyday life with little or no thought of God’s glory.” The chapters on anxiety and frustration struck uncomfortably close to home. Bridges invites readers to examine their lives for the sins of discontent, unthankfulness, and irritability. Under “pride,” he suggests that a Jesus follower look for an independent spirit and for pride in correct doctrine (condescension toward others). How about idolatry in one’s career or in a sports team?
For the Christian who works to address the sins of society, the chapter on judgmentalism might be helpful. The author writes, “The sin of judgmentalism is one of the most subtle of our ‘respectable’ sins because it is often practiced under the guise of being zealous for what is right.” It can manifest itself in a critical spirit or in equating our own opinions with biblical truth. It seems to me this chapter would be useful for a group of Christians who are setting out to take a stand on a public issue. How do we do that and still display the fruit of the Spirit? How do we speak the truth about great wrongdoing in love (Ephesians 4:15)?
The author makes it clear at the outset that he wishes this to be a book of hope. His strategies include (1) a reminder that the gospel is for sinners and (2) tales of his own struggles with respectable sins.
The book is intended for both personal and group study. NavPress offers a discussion guide that takes a group through the book in eight or 13 sessions. As a pastor, I see potential for a preaching series in this book. However, its greatest benefit may be for individual consideration of Jesus’ words in John 8:7, “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.”