Easier to just sin.

by K.W. Leslie, 03 February

It’s way easier to just give in to temptation, and beg forgiveness afterward, than it is to resist.

That’s the attitude most Christians have. That most people have: “Instead of asking permission, ask forgiveness.” You wanna do something, you know people are gonna be outraged if you do it, but rather than seek their approval (only to offend them even more when you defy them) it’s easier if you just do as you please, and deal with things after the fact. Assuming they ever find out!—and you’re kinda hoping they won’t.

Yeah, it’s thoroughly selfish. And it shouldn’t surprise us when selfish humans behave this way. Pagans or Christians.

But if we’re gonna grow as Christians, we have to resist this temptation too.

Still, it’s a commonplace attitude. Even among “good Christians”: Plenty of ’em figure “God’s in the forgiving business; he forgives all, so he’ll forgive this.” Not with major sins or mortal sins, however they define ’em; but it’s okay to fight temptation when we’re dealing with small sins. Stuff which has few to no consequences. Like indulging the stray evil thought. Like telling a white lie. Don’t stress yourself over such minor piffle. Don’t worry about following God in every little thing. What, are you trying to earn salvation or something? You legalist.

Yep, the line of thought in someone who’s trying to justify a sin, even a minor sin, is to immediately lunge towards, “Well it’d be a greater sin to resist temptation.” Which is stupid and irrational, but since when is it rational to dismiss and defy God in favor of our desires and convenience? Never has been. But if you wanna sin badly enough, any excuse will do.

Still, I have heard it preached, in actual pulpits, that it’s okay to go ahead and commit that sin. That it’s better to sin and be forgiven, than burn with unfulfilled desire. That it’ll get that sin out of your system, and then you can go back to following Jesus with post-nut clarity. Go ahead and sin. “Be a sinner and sin boldly,” as Martin Luther once put it; “but believe and rejoice in Christ even more boldly.”

Yeah, the Luther quote is taken out of context. He was writing Philip Melchanthon about how Christ can forgive any sinner; he wasn’t advocating sin. But y’know, people much prefer the idea Luther was telling Germans to sin their brains out ’cause grace. Again: It’s easier to just give in!

But it’s evil. Let’s not pretend it’s not, nor pretend small sins aren’t that evil. Evil is evil. Jesus expects better of us than that.

“Small sins” add up.

There’s no such thing as a small sin. Every sin has consequences.

The apostles and scriptures instruct us to not sin, 1Jn 2.1 not because we need a precise and anal-retentive biblical definition of sin. Nor because we need to be warned which behaviors will alienate God just in case we want him near and answering prayers. We’re told “Don’t sin” because sins have destructive consequences. Every sin; even the “small” and “minor” and “light” ones. Every sin violates the universe. Disrupts order. Harms others. Corrupts us. Encourages copycats.

Yes it’s entirely true when we sin, God forgives. God showers grace on us and doesn’t punish us for any crimes we commit against him. When we sin, we have Jesus, who entirely deals with these sins. 1Jn 2.2 Punishment might nonetheless come from an outraged society, from our fellow humans and our criminal justice system or the court of public opinion—but not God. Not in this life, nor his final judgment at the End. We’re forgiven. We’re right in his eyes. We’re good. His grace is amazing like that.

But again: While God forgives all, the world and society may still insist you be executed, go to prison, get fired, get divorced, or get “canceled.” God totally forgives our white lies, but if your lie is ever found out, the person you lied to might never forgive you. It might end a relationship—and in trying to keep that lie hidden, it’s certainly gonna interfere with that relationship. Like I said, “little” sins have consequences.

And little sins add up! Let’s say you tell a white lie every other day. After a year, that’s more than 150 lies. And I’m not even counting all the auxiliary lies you gotta tell to hide the original white lies. Added up, there’s a lot of deception in your life! A small sin, practiced regularly, quickly stops being small.

Now I’m assuming you rarely lie. (Which is probably not an assumption I should make, but I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt. I’m gracious like that.) But even if you rarely do, at some point you oughta sit down and inventory how many of these lies you actually do tell. See how many “small sins” you commit. The number may be distressing—and once you multiply it by a few years, it’ll get alarming. There’s a lot of disregarded sin in our lives! God forgives all of it, all the time, and it’s awesome of him that he does so… but let’s not kid ourselves. Those “little sins” add up to why our lives are so often a great big mess.

Not small anymore!

Probably the most common human delusion is, “Well, I’m an exception.”

Rules are for everybody, but in this instance, in my case, I’m an exception. We humans love to find a loophole and stuff ourselves through it. God has a Law, and humans oughta follow it; Jesus has instructions, and Christians oughta obey them; but I’m saved by grace and it’s okay if I break this one rule. Or break all the rules.

To many Christians, God’s grace looks like one big fat loophole. “We’re not saved by the Law? We don’t have to follow the Law in order for God to save us? Then I’m not following jack!” And here we are. It’s like the diplomats in New York City who discover diplomatic immunity means they can never be arrested for traffic violations—so they ignore New York traffic laws altogether, enraging the NYPD and risking the lives of New Yorkers.

So need we worry about small sins?—’cause God’s grace covers all? Well, what about the moderate sins? Like stealing equipment from work, cheating on taxes, hating one’s enemies (political or otherwise), refusing to be part of any church, taking petty revenge, regular intoxication, recreational promiscuity, and the like? Those aren’t so bad. Most of them aren’t even illegal.

Okay, but when Christians apply this “Don’t sweat the small stuff (and it’s all small stuff)” mentality to sin, in what way is our lifestyle any different from that of pagans? It’s in fact no different. In fact, a lot of pagans are better behaved than that: They don’t realize they can fall back on God’s grace, and at least fear karmic retribution. But Paul asked us, “Should we keep on sinning so that God can show us more and more of his wonderful grace?” Ro 6.1 NLT The Christian answer should not be, “Hell yeah; Christians aren’t perfect, just forgiven!” Grace is awesome, but again: Jesus expects better of us!

I do know a number of Christians who wring their hands at this whole situation; they bemoan the fact so few Christians seem to resist temptation, and blame the whole problem on Satan. I don’t. Yes, the devil can and does tempt people to ignore sin’s consequences, but let’s be honest: Humans are plenty motivated to ignore these consequences without any devilish help. Satan doesn’t even need to drop ideas into our heads.

Hence we too often have churches where God’s kingdom is virtually the same as the rest of the world. Just less cussing and more backstabbing. Filled with the lowest people in the kingdom. Mt 5.19