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Restoration in a Transformational Community 10: Of All the Stupid Choices, Why Sin?

In “You’ve Got Mail,” Tom Hanks’ character plays the ‘worst version of himself’ at one point in building a relationship with his future love. He is shot through with remorse almost immediately for what he said and did, but it flowed out of him so naturally you can imagine him treating others in his world the same way. Hanks’ acting captures on film the reality of many people who are surprised at their dark side—they didn’t know they had it in themselves to be so bad.

If only this were fiction. Or just stuff that happens to people who are still lost. The Bible is full of saints who blew it, who with their eyes wide open denied God’s right to reign over them, who preferred sin over righteousness. Not that we should be shocked. Intellectually we would all agree that sin is bad in a destructive kind of way. Practically, we find ourselves doing and saying things that are shockingly sinful—or not doing and speaking out for righteousness, which is also sin. And many times, unlike Hanks’ character, believers do not necessarily feel immediate remorse. Their choices lead them step by small step deeper in until they find themselves caught.

Why do believers get caught in sin? The seductively simple answer is that we are sinners. But that answer really doesn’t explain what would motivate a believer, who has been given the indwelling Spirit, to embrace sin over wholeness. What brings us back to being caught in sin again after experiencing the grace and mercy of God?

If you are serious about learning the practice of restoring believers caught in sin, you have to know the answer to these questions. Not just that they sinned. But why they would take such a path. Because if you do not know, you will not guide them back to spiritual bedrock. Oh, they may be sorry for the moment that they are confronted and pledge radical change. But when the pressure of life returns, they will turn again to the same sin as sure as the sun comes up in the east.

So what is it that leads any of us to be caught in sin? Like a coin, the answer has two sides. Heads is they have neglected pursuing intimacy with God. He has become a distant Father to them and His power in them a rumor instead of a reality. Tails is they have believed the pretty lies of the enemy that sin comforts the hurt they still carry in their heart. Since they have allowed their hearts to wander from intimacy with God, they have come to the ‘only’ source they think is left to them to deal with what is painful within.

Understand that they did not get here in a day. They took steps—often tiny ones—that led them to the pit they are in. It may have been 10 or 100 or 1000, but they chose to take every one of those steps. All because God had become less real and the lies of the enemy had become golden. If you understand this, you will understand your own impulses to sin. And if you understand your own impulses, you will better understand your brother or sister who is now caught in sin.

Steve Smith