Sins of the Spirit
I invited a man to church recently and his immediate response was, “I don’t believe in organized religion. I believe in God and all, but not organized religion. There is too much hypocrisy there.”
He wasn’t talking about any specific congregation. He was talking about all churches. “There is too much hypocrisy there.”
How does he know? Has he visited all the churches to test his theory? I doubt it. But, does he really have to? Haven’t we all been around enough churches to have a sense of what he is talking about?
Churches are known for taking hard stands against the sins of the flesh. Paul attacks those sins in 1 Corinthians 6. “Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.” (Vs.9-10).
The church is right in speaking out against such sins. Each of these behaviors can harm a person’s body, family, and soul in some way. One who persists in such sins “will not inherit the kingdom of God.”
One side affect of being right for any period of time, or at least feeling like we are, is we can become proud of it. It becomes too easy for someone who senses his own rightness to look down upon someone who he doesn’t think has achieved an equal level of righteous living. When that happens, when we begin to have those kinds of thoughts, we pass into another category of transgression, what might be called sins of the spirit.
Sins of the spirit are the attitudes and dispositions that lie beneath our behavior, but are what give them life and expression. Sins of the spirit are judgmental thoughts, a superior attitude, impatient words, bitter resentments, difficulty in being able to forgive, and have little room to love those we think are beneath us.
Sins of the spirit are annoying. More than that, sins of the spirit are extremely offensive.
Perhaps the greatest hazard of the sins of the spirit is that those who have them don’t know it. That don’t realize that the very pride that makes them feel superior and entitled to judge others is a spirit that will condemn them as surely as the sins of the flesh they condemn in others.
Proverbs 16:5 says, “The Lord detests all the proud of heart. Be sure of this: They will not go unpunished.” God may punish the proud by blessing the lives of those the proud is so quick to judge. He may punish the proud by allowing them to trip and fall, leaving them to experience all the humiliation bound to follow. Finally, he could choose to punish the proud by shutting the door on them, declaring that they were not as right as they thought they were.
The warnings in the Bible against pride, and the threats of punishment to the arrogant heart, should cause all of us who are Christians to step back and take stock of our lives. If the rich blessings we enjoy in Christ ever lead us to commit the sins of the spirit, sins of superiority and judgmentalism, then we may not possess those rich blessings as much as we might like to think. We may need to pray for a fresh infusion of humility so we can repent. We may need to pray for renewed hearts so we can love.
The man who told me, “I don’t believe in organized religion. I believe in God and all, but not organized religion. There is too much hypocrisy there,” may have been making an excuse. I don’t know. Or, he may have been in some churches where pride and other sins of the spirit left him feeling judged and excluded, and where the spirit of God was choked out. If that’s the case, we don’t need to criticize his decision, because it won’t do any good. We need to seek our own transformation to gratitude, humility and love, so if we bump into that guy somewhere, or he visits our church in the future, we can give him some room.