I have found it true that when you struggle with certain sins, you are more sympathetic with others who struggle with that sin. But if you don’t struggle as much with a certain sin, you will tend to be more impatient with those who do. For example, kids who struggle to obey their parents think it is hilarious when other kids disobey their parents. They get it. But for kids who always follow the rules, their gasps at their friends’ disobedience can be heard for miles. We sadly tend to take the sins of others more seriously than our own. But when we are stuck in a pit of repetitive sin, we more easily give our approval to those who are in the pit with us.
One of the cardinal sins in the current stream of American culture is the sin of non-approval or non-acceptance. People of all lifestyles desire to be accepted for who they are and what they do. The deep desire for approval was a major driving force for the LGBT agenda in the same-sex marriage narrative and it continues through a similar push for the legalization of polygamy from the Sister Wives. It has become increasingly difficult for Christians to navigate the waters of pluralism while having to dodge the bullets of accusations of bigotry and intolerance. Refusing to approve of a particular lifestyle, behavior, or identity is seen as prudish and regressive.
But the worst kind of approval is that which approves of what kills. The Bible teaches that sin in all its expressions leads to death. To approve of what God has condemned serves no one. It is self-condemning. It is the opposite of love. Who in love for his friend refuses to call out to him as he walks blindly toward the edge of a cliff? As easy and comfortable as it is to approve of cultural permissible sins, God’s people must not be found in the position of cheering their neighbors as they march gladly toward eternal death. In the words of Landon Dowden, “Sin should produce tears, not cheers.”
Paul closes his scathing section of Romans 1 by saying, “Though they know God’s righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them” (Rom. 1:32). Probably the greatest evidence and most serious result of God giving us up to ourselves is when we not only sin, but give our approval of sin in others.
People know that certain actions like the ones listed in Romans 1:29-31 are deserving of death. This moral code is written on the heart of every person under the sun. But they are so lost in their sin that they not only commit those sins anyway, they also give a thumbs up to others who commit these sins and more.
It is dangerous to both human souls and human societies when people begin to approve of sin. When we justify sin in ourselves and in others we are approving of the things God justly pours his wrath against. It may sound obvious to you that it is wrong to approve of sin, but it is very easy to fail in this way. How easy is it to join in gossip? How easy is it to justify your friend’s gossip in a large group? For the sake of perceived unity with friends and family, many Christians have capitulated on many hotbed issues. But it should be remembered that while capitulation on social or sexual issues God condemns may make you friends with men, it will cause you to stand in stark opposition to God.
When you ignore sin in your heart, you will ignore sin in your neighbor’s heart. Only when you confess sin in your own heart will you be able to helpfully confront sin in your neighbor’s heart. Deal seriously with sin in your life. See it as a deadly disease that callouses hearts to goodness and truth and joy. If you truly love your neighbor, you cannot offer your support and approval for their sin.
Only in Jesus do we find life and freedom from the curse and power of sin. Indeed, “those who practice such things deserve to die.” Jesus never practiced such things. He never sinned. Yet, he died the death we deserve, so we can have life with him. Jesus never approves of that which kills. Instead, he died to kill the disease of sin so we can have approval with God.
Mathew Gilbert (B.A. Boyce College) is Associate Pastor for Children and Preschool at The Church at Trace Crossing in Tupelo, MS. He is the author of Come to the Well: 50 Meditations to Fuel Your Joy in God (Westbow Press, 2016). He is an M.Div student at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Mathew is married to his high school sweetheart, Erica. Mathew and Erica live in Tupelo with their son, Jude. You can follow him on Twitter @mat_gilbert.