Are you one of those people who is always trying to fix other people? This happens in the church a lot. There are Christians who feel it is their mission to be “sin inspectors” of other Christians. Their focus is exclusively on the holiness (or lack thereof) of their fellow believers. Like crime scene investigators, these “righteous detectives” meticulously look for trace evidence of evil acts perpetrated by less-than-devout Jesus lovers. And oh boy do they experience a rush of adrenaline when they bust the case wide open! No better feeling than that “smoking gun” moment of catching this sister in her drunkenness or busting that brother in his lust.
Now I want to clarify something up front. The Bible is crystal clear that we are to be in the business of lovingly confronting our Christian brothers and sisters who deliberately embrace sin. We’ve all heard that worn-out expression, “You can’t judge me.” What people who make this statement are really saying is “I can live however I want and should never be questioned by anyone.” Let me lovingly say the Bible would say otherwise. As a community of believers, it is our holy duty to speak up when we see a brother or sister swimming in shark infested waters. To that end, it is our duty to remove them from our fellowship if they refuse to turn from sin but insist on calling themselves a Christian (see 1 Corinthians 5).
Need to clarify here: I am NOT talking about grace-filled accountability. Today I am addressing a cancerous issue that is infecting the church. Many of us seem to be experts at finding sin in everyone’s life except our own. We quickly identify this brother’s anger or that sister’s gluttony. The problem is when we become so consumed with the weaknesses and sins of others, that we refuse to examine our own life. Should you keep an eye out for your fellow believers? Absolutely. But the biggest spotlight needs to be put on your own life. This is the point Jesus is making in Matthew 7. We often see our sin as small and inconsequential while thinking the sin of others is registering an 8.2 on the “moral” Richter scale. Jesus warns us about being judgmental of others without first judging ourselves.
So while I am not trying to dissuade anyone from practicing Biblical accountability, I do want to push you toward doing a spiritual self-inspection often. Let me illustrate this with a blog post I wrote several years ago when I was still teaching at Sachse High School. I want to “recycle” this writing because it fits perfectly for our discussion today. Just so you know, this was penned during the swine flu outbreak.
As a teacher at a large high school (Sachse High School has almost 2,700 students in case you're wondering) I am constantly at risk for the latest round of sickness. The common cold, a stomach bug, a 24 hour virus...they all are frequent fliers in the public school system. So since I gotta be here 40 hours a week, I take pretty drastic measures to stay germ free. I have enough hand sanitizer in my classroom to disinfect the western hemisphere. The swine flu is not welcome in Mr. Baker's class!
A few days ago I was standing outside my door in between classes. I had a smile on my face and a bottle of sanitizer in my hand. As the students entered my room, I gave them a squirt of sanitizer. "Kill those germs!" I said as they walked into room 279. Some of them gave me strange looks but were compliant nonetheless. I am sure they think I am going overboard. But I figure I cannot be too careful when it comes to staying well. If I get sick then my wife and daughter will probably get sick. A houseful of sick people is no fun, so I have to be aggressive in my "germ warfare" (yes that was a joke...a lame one, but a joke nonetheless. I have now used the word "nonetheless" twice.)
It's funny how the Lord speaks to us in the day-to-day things of our life. As I stood there pumping out the sanitizer, it occurred to me that I had not used any of the sanitizer on my own hands. Here I was trying to disinfect everyone else, and I had not even killed my own germs. In that moment I was reminded of what the Apostle Paul said in I Corinthians 9:27: "I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize." Paul understood that it was possible for him to help others with their germs of sin without disinfecting the sin in his own life. He was pretty strong in his language. He said he "beat his body" so that he would not be disqualified himself. The Gospel is strange in that we can know the Truth, share the Truth with others, and yet still live our lives apart from that Truth. Paul got that. And he said after sharing with others how they should live, he took a hard look at his own life to make sure he was doing the same thing. Sometimes we need a good dose of our own medicine.
All of us have experienced that sick feeling in our stomach when we learned the news that another big name preacher has fallen. Jimmy Swaggart. Jim Bakker. Ted Haggard. Paul Sheppard. Todd Bentley. Eddie Long. All of these men were taken hostage by the very things they preached against. How is that possible? It's quite simple. They were so busy fixing everyone else that they forgot to take a look at their own life. They failed to "beat their body" into submission and in doing so became "disqualified." For the record, I am not condemning these men. It is our duty as fellow believers in Christ to pray for these men and their families. But I think we should also learn from them. It is not enough to know the Truth, or to share that Truth with others. We must be diligent in the practice of applying the Truth to our own lives.
When was the last time you disinfected the germs in your spiritual life? Today, take a good hard look at your relationship with Christ. Has your faith become polluted, toxic? Are lust, anger, greed, and pride taking up residence in your life? If so, you know it's time to disinfect. Repent of those things and allow the Lord to cleanse you from them ( see I John 1:9). Don't be too quick to disinfect others and their spiritual germs. First, sanitize the sin in your own life.