If you read the works of the saints, or their biographies, you can see that they were aware of a truth that America has forgotten—sin is real and it alienates us from God. Instead, America (or, rather the whole of Western civilization) has a bad habit of presuming that God “doesn’t care” about the action we do that falls under the category of sin. As a result, we have an understanding about sin that is both self-contradictory and has nothing to do with the reality:
- When others do something we dislike, we have no qualms about acknowledging it as a sin.
- When we do something that is a sin, we refuse to acknowledge it as a sin and call it an arbitrary decision made by human beings that doesn’t matter to God.
In other words, while people are perfectly willing to denounce others, the fact is that, instead of thinking rationally about the good or evil of our actions we contemplate doing, we rationalize the things we already do to avoid thinking about whether they are good or evil or rationalize a reason not to do what we ought to do.
This mindset actually convicts the person before God—because we call the actions of others “sin” or “wrongdoing,” we acknowledge that there is a good which must be lived and an evil which must be avoided. But because we refuse to apply this knowledge to ourselves, we show ourselves to be hypocrites and evildoers.
When we think of it this way, the proper way to interpret Matthew 7:1-5 suddenly becomes a whole lot clearer:
1 “Stop judging, that you may not be judged. 2 For as you judge, so will you be judged, and the measure with which you measure will be measured out to you. 3 Why do you notice the splinter in your brother’s eye, but do not perceive the wooden beam in your own eye? 4 How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me remove that splinter from your eye,’ while the wooden beam is in your eye? 5 You hypocrite, remove the wooden beam from your eye first; then you will see clearly to remove the splinter from your brother’s eye.
If we refuse to acknowledge our own sinfulness, we become unfit guides for helping others avoid sin—having that beam in the eye. Unfortunately, because everyone seems to think that sin is affiliated with those we disagree with, but not ourselves, that is in essence a refusal to repent. If we get angry at the Church for saying that it is sinful to commit fornication, adultery, homosexual acts, contraception, abortion, etc., and claiming it is not a sin to do these things then, by refusing to stop doing them, we show to God our refusal to repent and turn back to Him.
In other words, the sin of the pharisee is not limited to the religious zealot. It is committed by every person who refuses to say ‘O God, be merciful to me a sinner.’ (Luke 18:13b).
Unfortunately, people like to misinterpret Matthew 7:1-5 to mean that any person who says “X is a sin” is disobeying Jesus. But if that were a true interpretation, then it would certainly be disobeying Jesus to accuse them of being judgmental. But anyone who takes the time to read Chapter 7 of Matthew can see that Jesus certainly does not forbid us to say that actions are evil. In fact, near the end of the chapter, Jesus also says:
21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven,* but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven. 22 Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name? Did we not drive out demons in your name? Did we not do mighty deeds in your name?’ 23 Then I will declare to them solemnly, ‘I never knew you.* Depart from me, you evildoers.’ (Luke 7:21-23)
Indeed, elsewhere in the Gospel of Matthew (Matt 18:15-17), Jesus tells us about admonishing sinners:
15 “If your brother* sins [against you], go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have won over your brother. 16 If he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, so that ‘every fact may be established on the testimony of two or three witnesses.’ 17 If he refuses to listen to them, tell the church.* If he refuses to listen even to the church, then treat him as you would a Gentile or a tax collector.
These teachings of Jesus show that “Don’t say X is a sin” is a false interpretation. In fact, if we love Christ, we keep His commandments (Luke 14:15) and if we reject the Apostles and their successors we reject Him and His Father (Luke 10:16). That is a message which is widely forgotten today by a people which thinks that the only moral obligation is being nice to those we think deserve our being nice to.
Our nation has forgotten the reality of sin as something that rejects God and harms our neighbor. In replacing it with “be nice to each other,” it has perverted the Christian message to the point that it accuses actual Christians of behaving in an “unchristian” manner. Not for bad behavior (which unfortunately does exist among who profess a belief in Christ) but for following their faith and saying “X is wrong!"
Until America recognizes the difference between rejecting evil and actual intolerance it will continue to justify evil while praising itself for “being nice."