92607965_c9630ee057

The Kind of Sin Jesus Publicly Exposes

Image by danny.hammontree via Flickr

Religious sin is the only sin Jesus publicly confronted. The religious variety of the forbidden fruit is the most addictive and deceptive variety. Instead of acknowledging that judging others is prohibited, religious idolatry embraces the knowledge of good and evil as divinely sanctioned and mandated. It gives the illusion of being on God’s side even while it destroys life and hardens people in direct opposition to God.

Religious sin is the most destructive kind of sickness, for it masquerades as and feeds off the illusion of health. Far from being open to a cure, this kind of sickness thrives on the illusion that it is the epitome of health. By its very nature it resists soft correction. Indeed, because it gets life from the rightness of its beliefs and behavior rather than from love, religious sin tends to construe all compassion, accommodation, and unconditional acceptance as compromise. People afflicted with religious sin thus tend to disdain compassionate love, even if it is extended toward them. Hence, Jesus’ approach to leaders who fed off this illusion could not be to gently offer them a cure. Rather, for their sake and the sake of those who blindly followed them, he had to publicly expose their sickness.

What does this mean for the church? The church is called to be the corporate body of Christ that unconditionally loves and embraces all people, regardless of their sin. The only exception to this otherwise unconditional embrace is the sin Jesus confronted in the religious leadership of his day. While all sin is equal in the sense that it separates us from God, sins differ in terms of their impact on people and thus differ in how they need to be dealt with. Religious sin is unique in that it is the only sin that can keep a community from fulfilling the commission to unconditionally love and embrace everyone.

When religious sin infects people, they feed off their judgment rather than love. Where this diabolic delusion is in place in leadership, the kingdom of God is resisted. God’s will can’t be done “on earth as it is in heaven” (Matt. 6:10), for those enslaved to this delusion think they are bringing the kingdom in the very act of preaching their delusion. They preach the fall and think it is salvation. In the name of opening the kingdom, they “lock people out of the kingdom” (Matt. 23:13).

For this reason, religious sin sabotages the whole enterprise of the church when it is found in leadership. It prevents the church from manifesting the loving unity of the Trinity, which is God’s main witness to the world. When a people—especially leaders—gets life from the rightness of their belief and behavior, they will invariably get life by attacking and/or separating from others who don’t see things exactly as they do.

Moreover, since idols never satisfy the hunger that drives us to them, leaders who serve an idol of religion tend to believe they are serving the interest of the kingdom by splitting into increasingly well-defined and ever-shrinking groups.

Hence, while most of the time love requires that we hide the sins of others, the sin of leaders who get life from their religion at the expense of others must sometimes be confronted and exposed. It may be the only hope those who are enslaved to this sin have of recognizing it as sin. It may also be the only way of protecting people who would follow these leaders as well as others who might be harmed by these leaders. Precisely to ensure that it remains a community where outrageous love flows, the church must in love be willing to aggressively confront leaders who are enslaved and enslave others to religious idolatry.

—Adapted from Repenting of Religion, pages 203-205

Related Reading

Love Conquers All

Paul prayed in this way for the church at Ephesus: I pray that, according to the riches of his glory, [God] may grant that you may be strengthened in your inner being with power through his Spirit, and that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith, as you are being rooted and grounded in…

Remembering the Myth During Election Season

Given the current political furor in America right now, we thought we would post an extended quote from Greg’s book The Myth of a Christian Nation. This book was originally a reflection on Christian political engagement during the 2004 election, and how conflating “America” with Christianity is devastating to the mission we’ve been given in the…

The Sine Qua Non of the Kingdom

In contrast to the habit of judgment which I challenged in the previous post, God calls his people to love the way that God loves. But what exactly does this mean? People have a lot of screwy ideas about “love” today. We use the word “love” to mean a lot of different things, from sexual…

Join the Revolution!

We are living at a very important, and very exciting, juncture of history. The old religion of Christendom that has been identified with “Christianity” the last 1600 years is dying, and out of its ruins is arising a new tribe of kingdom revolutionaries. All around the globe people are getting the revelation that the kingdom…

The Call to Suffer

Paul tells us that in all our relations, we are to “have the same attitude of mind Christ Jesus had” (Phil 2:5). Though he was “in very nature God,” he didn’t cling to this status. Rather, for our sake he set aside his divine prerogatives, took on the nature of a servant and “humbled himself…

God’s Heart to Prevent Judgment

In Ezekiel we read a passage that depicts Yahweh as warning his people about their impending punishment by saying, “I will pour out my wrath on you and breathe out my fiery anger against you” (Ezek 21:31a). As we find in several other texts, Yahweh is here depicted as a ferocious fire-breathing dragon—a portrait that…