How Should Christians React to Sin in Society?

Love the sinner; hate the sin. God can do this, but can we? It seems that if I actively hate the sinful behavior of individuals, I can’t simultaneously show love to the people engaging in that behavior.

Some sins are socially unacceptable. Murder and theft, for instance, are not okay to anyone, whether saved or not. Other things which the Bible condemns as sin are, at least in our current society, considered acceptable. Adultery? Sleeping around is a behavior flaunted in almost every modern TV show I’ve seen. And then we have drunkenness, which is so common no one really thinks anything of it unless someone gets hurt or killed. And homosexuality, which has come to such a place of acceptance that people are being told they CANNOT speak out against it.

More and more, as sin becomes socially acceptable and things like drunkenness, adultery, homosexuality, gluttony, and lying become matters of course, we (Christians) have to decide how to react. The more acceptable these things are, the more prevalent they will be. What do we do when we see people engaging in these behaviors?

Too Much Love

On one side of the spectrum, we have a reaction to sin that involves too much love and a strange idea that tolerance equals love. We react this way because we want people to know that it’s for God to judge, not for us, and we want people to feel loved. We’ve been led to believe that real love means not telling someone they’re wrong. Postmodernism is all about shades of grey and says that truth is relative.

As Christians, when we get sucked into this thinking, we start to shy away from calling anything sin for fear that we will hurt others or drive them away from Christ or, worse, that we might get a reputation of being intolerant. Some Christians believe that the way to deal with sin in society is to completely ignore it and focus only on the “love the sinner” part of the message.

I get the idea of tolerance. I get why Christians are scared to take a stand on anything or say anything politically incorrect. After all, if we speak out against a socially acceptable sin, won’t we be pushing people away from the gospel?

And that’s the problem.

We try to win people over to Christ by being almost like them. Almost just like them. Not quite the same, but the closer we are, the better our chances, right?

But it’s all wrong.

Be ye holy because I am holy, says the Lord! (see 1 Pet. 1) Come out from among them and be ye separate! (see 2 Cor. 6) Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers! (see 2 Cor. 6) Let your light so shine before men that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven! (see Matt. 5) Be not conformed to this world! (see Rom. 12) You must be born again! (see John 3) If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new! (see 2 Cor. 5)

Something inside me just wants to scream that we STOP IT! Stop trying to be as close to the world as possible! Stop accepting sin! Stop averting your eyes and buttoning your lips!

Too Much Hate

On the other end of the spectrum is, of course, a reaction that involves too much hate. Too much judgment. Christians might react this way because they see things in black and white and believe that sin is sin, it’s always wrong, and it should not be tolerated. While there is some truth to that thinking, the reaction is wrong when it leads to shaming people or treating them as less-than-human because of their behavior.

Some Christians take homophobia to a whole new level. It’s like the newest form of racism. People who practice homosexuality can be looked down on so much that they feel like total outsiders. They might even be kicked out of church if they admit to that behavior.

As Christians, when we’re tempted to react this way, we should remind ourselves that we ALL have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. (see Rom. 3) Sin entered the world through one man’s choice of [anything other than God] over God. God said, and Adam questioned whether God really knew best, and in the end he chose something other than God. Call it pride or call it disobedience, but it all boils town to, first, a lack of faith or a wrong attitude about God, followed by a choice of something else other than God. Self rather than God. Love rather than God. Pleasure rather than God.

No matter the sin, it all comes back to the same thing, and no matter whether we consider the sin large or small, it’s enough to separate you from God. (see Is. 59) A lie will separate you from God no more or less than murder and no more or less than a sexual sin. Sin is sin. Christians forget that. Christians tend to turn a blind eye to their own faults, then when someone comes around with an obvious sin, they think that associating with that person would be encouraging the sin or showing too much tolerance. Jesus was known for associating with the sinners, but we shun them and kick them while they’re down because their big, obvious sin seems worse to us than our little bad habits.

Sin is sin. We are all sinners. God does not cast away the imperfect. He  uses the weak and the foolish things in this world to confound and shame the wise and the strong. (See 1 Cor. 1)

A Happy Medium

The hateful reaction holds some truth: Sin is wrong, period. It’s not ever okay.

The loving reaction holds some truth, too: Everyone deserves love (because they are God’s creation and God loves them). We aren’t called to disassociate ourselves from sinners.

So how do we love the sinner and hate the sin?

Here are some things I think we should all keep in mind, and hopefully they will help us accomplish this seemingly impossible goal.

  1. God created perfection, but we are all sinners living in a fallen world.
              When sin entered the world through Adam, everything got corrupted. Everything is affected, even you and me. We all have an inclination for sin, and we have all sinned. None of us deserves God’s forgiveness, and if we have it it’s only by His grace. If we do good, it’s only by His grace. If we beat temptation, it’s only by His grace. We need to be in constant humble awareness of this.
  2. We need to deal with ourselves first.
              Christianity is about relationship. Most importantly, my Christian walk is about my relationship with God. That means that the sin I most need to worry about is my own sin, because my sin separates me from God. (see Is. 59) I need to remove the plank from my eye before I can see to remove the speck from someone else’s. (see Matt. 7) I need to confess my sins, repent from them, and consistently walk with God, forgiven and empowered by His grace.
  3. Love is not synonymous with tolerance.
              We should stand for what we believe in. A mother who loves her child deeply will not tolerate disobedience from her child (just as God does not tolerate disobedience from  us). A sister who loves her brother will not tolerate him making bad, harmful decisions (because she doesn’t want to see him get hurt)! Christians do not need to tolerate sin in society if it means we are turning a blind eye and trying to continue as if it’s not happening.
              I believe Christians need to do a better job of calling sin what it is. Don’t be afraid to call it like you see it. When asked to join in on an activity, it’s okay to say, “No, I do not do that. God says that’s not okay.” And it’s also alright to say, “God says sex is good but is intended only for for within the marriage of one man and one woman.” I believe God. I believe His truth is universal. Truth is black and white, not relative. Sin is sin. Truth is truth. Stand up for what you believe, but do so without attacking the people who don’t share the same belief. Like it or not, it is our very same God who gives them the right to choose something other than Him.
  4. Overcome evil with good. (see Rom. 12)
              We need to be light in a dark world. (see Matt. 5) and show Christ to the world by how we live, act, and speak. Our joy, our peace, our love, and our attempts to be better should be our witness and our legacy. We want others to come to Christ and receive forgiveness as we have, and we know that everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord will be saved. But how are people to call upon Him Whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in Him of Whom they have never heard? (see Rom. 10 ) And how are they to hear unless we tell them and show them?

"Perfection is not attainable, but if we chase perfection we can catch excellence.” 
Vince Lombardi

A “Hopeless” Wish? Or A Confident Expectation?

“And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.” 1 Corinthians 13:13 (KJV)

Faith, hope, and love.

Really?

More like faith, love, and wishful thinking.

Love is the “greatest,” the most obvious, and possibly the hardest. We understand that love is generous, patient, kind, and forgiving. We know that “love covers a multitude of sin,” and we know that we are to “love our neighbors as ourselves.”

Faith is complex, but we understand it to some degree. We know it’s the “evidence of things unseen.” We know it can move mountains – or it should be able to, at least. We know that we are “saved by grace through faith,” so even if it’s not the greatest of the three, it’s still pretty great.

But what of hope?

Do we think enough about hope? Do we think of hope at all?

We hope things go well, hope God will answer our prayers, et cetera, but, really, is it any more to us than wishful thinking?

The word hope appears in the KJV 133 times, and it goes up from there when looking at other translations. ESV mentions hope 164 times, NIV 180, and the Amplified Bible has 195 occurrences of the word hope. For comparison, KJV mentions faith 336 times and love/charity 466 times. (These numbers come from keyword searches on BibleGateway.com.)

In what (or in whom) do we hope? And what is hope?

Is Christianity defined by sinlessness, grace, love, and faith more than it is defined by hope? I found a neat article on Bible.org that says the modern idea of hope is “to desire very much, but with no real assurance of getting your desire.” Wishful thinking. But, more than that, it actually sounds kind of hope-less, doesn’t it? No assurance of getting your desire? If this is hope, why would it be much of a big deal at all?

The article goes on to explain, however, that in scripture the word indicates certainty and trust. It is a confident expectation. “In the Bible, hope is never a static or passive thing…It is dynamic, active, directive, and life-sustaining.” It’s not an unrealistic wish. It’s not a desire with no assurance. It is not an escape from reality. Hope is based in reality, on God’s promises, and it’s a huge part of the Christian life.

Psalm 71:5 (Amplified Bible)

For You are my hope; O Lord God, You are my trust from my youth and the source of my confidence.

In the general, non-Christian population, hope (confident expectation) is usually placed in oneself. People expect themselves to succeed, to pull through. In spite of all odds and all difficulties, they will, in the end, expect to see themselves thrive. ((Not everyone. Some people are depressed and utterly hopeless. Some have had their confidence shattered, but it’s true for the majority.)

What’s sad to me is that, as far as I can see, Christians tend to be the same way! We believe in ourselves above all else, and when it comes to God  and His promises we have these wishy-washy, timid desires. Our hope is more like “positive thinking,” and it contains no real power or reward.

Hope should be a more prominent theme in Christianity. Why else does God tell us so many amazing things about it? Our hope should be in Christ and in His promises. Then we will find hope giving us joy and peace. Then we will find hope sustaining us. Then we will find compassion and and grace and abundant life.

We have to change our thinking and renew our minds and re-focus. Place your “confident expectation” where it should be. Not on you. On the One who provides.

Lamentation 3:21-26 (Amplified Bible)

But this I recall and therefore have I hope and expectation: It is because of the Lord’s mercy and loving-kindness that we are not consumed, because His [tender] compassions fail not. They are new every morning; great and abundant is Your stability and faithfulness.

The Lord is my portion or share, says my living being (my inner self); therefore will I hope in Him and wait expectantly for Him. The Lord is good to those who wait hopefully and expectantly for Him, to those who seek Him [inquire of and for Him and require Him by right of necessity and on the authority of God’s word].

It is good that one should hope in and wait quietly for the salvation (the safety and ease) of the Lord.

Romans 5:2-6 (Amplified Bible)

Through Him also we have [our] access (entrance, introduction) by faith into this grace (state of God’s favor) in which we [firmly and safely] stand. And let us rejoice and exult in our hope of experiencing and enjoying the glory of God.

Moreover [let us also be full of joy now!] let us exult and triumph in our troubles and rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that pressure and affliction and hardship produce patient and unswerving endurance. And endurance (fortitude) develops maturity of character (approved faith and tried integrity). And character [of this sort] produces [the habit of] joyful and confident hope of eternal salvation.

Such hope never disappoints or deludes or shames us, for God’s love has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit Who has been given to us. While we were yet in weakness [powerless to help ourselves], at the fitting time Christ died for (in behalf of) the ungodly.

Jeremiah 17:7-8 (Amplified Bible)

[Most] blessed is the man who believes in, trusts in, and relies on the Lord, and whose hope and confidence the Lord is. For he shall be like a tree planted by the waters that spreads out its roots by the river; and it shall not see and fear when heat comes; but its leaf shall be green. It shall not be anxious and full of care in the year of drought, nor shall it cease yielding fruit.

Isaiah 26:3-4 (Amplified Bible)

You will guard him and keep him in perfect and constant peace whose mind [both its inclination and its character] is stayed on You, because he commits himself to You, leans on You, and hopes confidently in You.

So trust in the Lord (commit yourself to Him, lean on Him, hope confidently in Him) forever; for the Lord God is an everlasting Rock [the Rock of Ages].

Amplified Bible (AMP)

Copyright © 1954, 1958, 1962, 1964, 1965, 1987 by The Lockman Foundation

What I Do (Introduction to Virtual Assistance)

My regular “day job,” if you please, is as a personal/executive virtual assistant. A lot of my friends have been curious what my work entails and why I love it, so I thought I’d share. This goes along with this week’s re-launch of Ocipura.com, and serves as a chance to kind of re-introduce myself to you all!

I’d love to hear from you if you also have an amazing job (online or offline) that you’d like to share! Or maybe you have some more questions about my work? If so, leave a comment below!

What Others Think I Do – What I Really Do

I hate being asked, “So what do you do?”

It’s hard to give a simple answer! When you hear that I work from home as an online assistant, you may think that what I actually mean is that I spend all day on Facebook and Reddit. Not so. I have real work, and I have real clients, and I get real money for it. In essence, what I do is manage my client’s lives, to one degree or another! Here are a few examples of tasks that I complete on a daily basis for my handful of clients:

  • Schedule meetings, doctor’s appointments, car maintenance, home repairs, coffee dates (and manage super-busy calendars!)
  • Book/purchase flights, rental cars, train tickets, et cetera
  • Make reservations for hotels, restaurants, retreats, dog-walkers, et cetera
  • Shop for and purchase gifts, home necessities, cellphone or cable plans, concert tickets, et cetera
  • Research (examples below)
    • Competitive analysis of hiking websites
    • Options for payroll management
    • How different companies manage/maintain great customer service
    • Things to do/see in Buenos Aires
    • Restaurants to try in [city]
    • Incorporating a business in [country]
  • Run payroll
  • Send invoices
  • Track expenses
  • Send money / Make recurring payments
  • Email management

A Day in the Life of One VA

I am a self-employed contractor, meaning that my clients hire me for my services, but I’m not their employee. As a VA, my schedule can be as flexible or rigid as I choose to make it, but you know me: I’m all about routine and predictability.

I’m working on making my workday a balance of regularly-scheduled work times intermixed with breaks.

Here’s an idea of what a day in my life is like with a full client load:

0615 -0745 – Wake up, walk with the dog, take care of personal hygiene

0745-0830 – Quiet time & Bible reading, planning to-do list for the day

0830-0900 – Begin going through my email, prioritizing client tasks, responding to emails

0900-1100 – Client work + break (for breakfast, to relax a little, & to work on some chores)

1100-1130 – Writing time

1130-1330 – Client work + break (for further writing, lunch, chores, & relaxing)

1330-1530 – Client work

1530-1630Break time

1630-1800 – Client work (finish early and head to the beach, maybe???)

1800-2100 – Time with Marty, Dinner, TV/games/whatever

2100-2300 – Personal time, journal time, get ready for bed, etc.

michelle zirtual shirt

Why I <3 My Job

Why do I love my work? First of all, working from home and communicating primarily via email works perfectly with my introverted, Aspie nature. I can handle a small office setting, but interacting with more than a couple co-workers in the same space stresses me out. And, let’s face it, I’m not great with face-to-face interactions. I don’t always get my facial expressions or tone of voice just right. Nope! Communicating by email is where it’s at.

Secondly, I’m utilizing my strengths! Writing? Organization? Technology? Spreadsheets? Emails? All things I’m great with!

Third, I love my clients, and I love helping them out. I take many tasks off their plates so that they can focus on the things they’re great at. It’s satisfying to help people. It’s satisfying to see my clients become more successful and more productive because of my actions.

Finally, I have to bring up the flexible schedule. If I need a day off, or an afternoon off, I’ve got it. No problem. No saving up vacation days. If I want to work from the poolside, I can. If I want to take a break in the middle of the day and hit the beach, I can, and I have! If I want to get all my tasks done in the morning and finish up work early, I can. If I want to go back to school and take classes in the middle of the day, I can. If I want to work from my RV and travel across the country, picking up wi-fi where I find it, I can. Seriously. It’s hard to get any better than this.

More About Trust

tumbles hidesTrust is essential in relationships. It’s really the “bedrock” of any successful relationship. That’s why, really, we can only have a perfect relationship, with pure, unconditional love, with God. HE’s the only one completely trustworthy.

People fail. They always will, eventually, no matter how good the intentions. That, of course, doesn’t mean that we can’t have relationships with people. By all means, we can. We can forgive and move on. We can choose to trust again or choose to let someone earn our trust again. But the point is that there is not anyone alive who is perfectly trustworthy, who will never let you down.

We need trust to make relationships work. To build upon a foundation of trust is, I believe, the only way to build a good relationship.

I don’t remember where I’m going with this.

What do you do when the trust is shattered? What do you do when you simply cannot believe a word they say or an action they do or a motive they claim to have? At that point, there really is no relationship. Everything done or said is…empty.

I no longer know what my point was in this, but at least I wrote. Do you have any thoughts? I know it’s a pain to have to register to comment, but I have to make it that way to avoid tons of spam. If you have something to say, please take the time to register and leave some feedback.

Thank you!

Loving

I grew up hearing that I should love my neighbor as I love myself, and, later, that I couldn’t truly love someone else unless I loved myself. These ideas threw me off kilter for a long time. Especially as I grew into teenage-hood and my depression hit me harder, I could not understand this concept because, frankly, I didn’t feel like I loved myself. In fact, sometimes, or maybe most of the time, I hated myself! But I loved others… didn’t I?

Agape?

Agape is a Greek word used frequently in the New Testament for “love.” It is a sacrificial, unconditional love. It is the love with which the Father loves us and with which we are to love Him in return. It is also the type of love we are to have for each other. And, in my opinion, it is a very misunderstood concept.

In the New Testament, there are three main Greek words which are all translated to our word love. One is a passionate, sexual, romantic love (eros). Another is a brotherly love; it describes the kind of feeling we have in a friendship with someone we really like (phileo). The last is the deepest kind of love, but it is not based on feelings but rather on doing good towards someone (agape).

I’ll say it again: agape is based on actions rather than feelings. This is why I, as a simple English-speaker, misunderstood it. Love usually means a feeling, not an action. And despite growing up with “Luv is a Verb” by DC Talk, I did not really grasp the concept of applying this action-based love to myself and others.

Love Thyself, Love Thy Neighbor

Depression aside (because I know sometimes in that pit it is hard to even take care of oneself), I think it’s fair to say that most people have this “agape love” toward themselves. We do good to ourselves. We give ourselves good things – food, things, shelter. We take care of our bodies and minds. We do what we can to relieve pain and keep out of harm’s way. We generally treat ourselves pretty well! This is what I believe is meant by loving others as we love ourselves.

As Christians, we’re called to treat everyone with this kind of unconditional love. We are to take care of each other, look after each other, love on each other. Not necessarily because we feel affectionate! Even when I think that I hate myself or hate a part of myself, I still tend to treat myself well. And even if we don’t like everyone that we come in contact with, we’re to do the same – treat them well. They are made in God’s image and loved by Him, and we are to do good to them, not harm.

Spousal Love

I questioned myself before I got married. I wasn’t sure whether I would really be capable of loving my husband after being told for so long that I could not love someone else unless I loved myself first. And did I really love myself? Sometimes I sure didn’t feel very pleased with who I was or how I behaved or looked. I think it would be more accurate to say that you can’t act lovingly towards your spouse if you don’t know how to act lovingly toward yourself. If you abuse yourself, you’re likely to abuse your spouse. But understanding unconditional love, or agape, means understanding how to be kind and loving in spite of what you may or may not feel.

And, of course, it’s often easy in marriage to treat your spouse with agape, since there’s usually eros and phileo to motivate you.

I hope I’ve explained my thoughts well enough to be understood!

The Other Big D

Depression

Every time I come up against bloggers-block (ha :P) it’s because there is something on my heart that I feel I can’t share, for whatever reason. I usually start blogging again when I realize that the best way past it is to blog about it, and afterwards I’m able to move on to other topics. So I’m going to try that now.

I tell myself, privately, that my struggle with depression will one day be a great testimony for the Lord. How he brought me through. Once I finally reach the other side. And, in the meantime, I tell myself, it must be secret. I have to push through on God’s strength, keep quiet, and one day I’ll be able to look back on these times and explain to others how God brought me through.

And you’re reading that, going, “Michy, that’s dumb. That’s not how it should work.” And I’d agree with you.

Why do I feel the need to keep my struggles secret? It’s not for God’s glory. It doesn’t make God appear any stronger or do anything to prove his power. It neither helps me nor does it help my friends. It’s pride. If I’m honest, the only reason for my secrecy is that I’m embarrassed. I’m embarrassed that I’m weak, that I struggle, that I have a problem that my friends don’t have, and I hide it to protect myself, pride-fully trying to appear unflawed.

The other option is, of course, to open up and let my loved ones in – to help, to listen, or even just to pray. I would have to trust God enough to be vulnerable, to humbly admit that I’m not Super Michy. Just Michy. And that definitely goes against the grain.

Some Truths

IMG_2331So here’s the truth. I cry more than … anyone. I cry more than anyone should, more than anyone else does, as far as I can tell. I get depressed, and miserable, and it makes me feel utterly alone. Because I know that there is no way anyone else can understand. I know that really, only God can truly be there with me – understand me – and I feel alone. I feel helpless to explain, and I usually don’t even bother.

In fact, I usually scoff at people who ask “What’s wrong?” I decide that they don’t have, or care to have, the next twelve hours free for me to really make myself understood. And it seems so meaningless to just say I’m sad. I’m depressed. I’m going through some stuff. I’m having a hard time. Those phrases don’t even BEGIN to cover it, and even if they did, someone would then ask me, “Why?” A million reasons! I can list a handful off the top of my head, but to you they will seem like nothing, and the truth is, they are nothing. Except that they are piled on top of a lifetime of other STUFF and they are viewed through my messed-up, depressed mind.

And the truth is I hate that I’m depressed. I see myself as weak and lazy when my depression interferes with my life, and I tend to feel like I need to protect myself from being seen that way by others. So act strong. Get mad, not sad. Crying is weakness. Smile. Pretend. Be there for others, but never make them be there for you. Because chances are they’ll fail, or even if they don’t, they won’t be ENOUGH.

Best not to try. And best not to be a burden, because if you are a burden you’re likely not to have ANY friends.

This is why I feel unknown: I don’t let anyone know me. I might as well tell God that He made me wrong. He shouldn’t have given me this flaw. It’s ugly; it’s meant to be hidden.

And as I try to hide, I lose something. I grow hard and harsh and lose my inner beauty and gentleness and… I can’t be genuine with people. And without that genuineness and openness, my relationships become shallow. I wonder if my impact on people, on the world… how different would it be if I were open? Vulnerable? Would people see God more clearly? Would they feel love more fully? Would my words and actions be more meaningful?

The truth is, I live with the chronic pain of depression. I struggle THROUGH it, constantly. And God helps me. He’s with me every moment, he gets me through each day. He’s the reason I don’t become self-destructive, the reason I can still love others, the reason I can still find joy (sometimes). I think my friends deserve to know that NOW. Because who knows if there ever will be an “other side” that I’ll reach, where it won’t hurt so much? If I keep waiting for that, I may never get to share my testimony.

Just some thoughts…

Five for Friday 10/29

Previous Fridays

I love my husband because…

1. You got me “just because” flowers, and they’re beautiful.

2. You give up sleep for me.

3. You have such a creative imagination.

4. You’re too smart for your own good.

5. Because you love me.