When Is Sin Really Sin?

By James Hahn

The title of this article may seem foolish at first, but as I observe the actions of many, I am convinced that this is a question that needs to be asked and answered. There are some who do not seem to understand what sin really is and therefore do not understand when a thing should really be considered as sin.

Some seem to think that an act is not sinful as long as it is unknown to others. A man may drink, lie, steal, or any other act and have no sense of guilt or shame. He seems to think that his actions are acceptable because he is able to keep them hid from others. When his actions are exposed, the only thing he seems sorry of is that he “got caught.” This same attitude is often demonstrated on the part of some members of the church when it comes to dealing with sin in the lives of some members. If you dare expose the sins of some, you may be accused of “causing trouble” or dealing unfairly with someone. The attitude seems to be that, so long as nothing is said about the sins, everything will be fine. It only becomes a problem when something is said about it. How foolish can we be? We need to learn that the teaching of truth or the exposing of error does not cause the wrong; it just brings to light wrongs that were already present.

There are others who seem to think that a thing is not sinful if everyone else is doing it. The common practice of a thing tends to make it acceptable in the eyes of the majority. Sometimes even members of the church tend to become tolerant of things that should be considered sinful simply because the majority of the people have accepted them. Some who are guilty of sinful acts may be led to think that their actions are not wrong because they are accepted by members of the church without question or rebuke. Paul rebuked the church at Corinth for not putting away one from among them who was guilty of immorality (1 Cor. 5). This man was not made to feel ashamed or guilty at all because the church was not questioning his action but was actually glorying in such (1 Cor. 5:6). Again, we need to learn that acceptance of a thing is not what makes that thing right in the sight of God.

Another problem that exists along this line is the attitude of some who have determined that the only things to be considered sinful are th tings they don’t like. If they like it then it is not sin; if they do not like it, then it is sin. This is the reason for many becoming angry and upset when you speak out on various sins. If you condemn something they like, you are wrong since their likes cannot be sinful. When a person thinks in this manner, he is in reality setting himself up as the standard for determining right and wrong. His likes are right; his dislikes are wrong. He, in effect, becomes his own “god.”

The Bible teaches that sin is the transgression of God’s law (1 Jn. 3:4). If a thing is contrary to the teaching of God’s word, it is sin. It may be hid from men, it may be accepted by the majority, you may not be questioned by anyone, but it is still sin! Sin is against God. When we learn this very important lesson, then we will be ready to examine our lives in the light of God’s word and will allow it to guide us in whatever we may do. iF a thing is right, then we will do that which is right even in the majority does not do so or ever opposes us in the doing of that which is right. If a thing is contrary to the word of God (sinful), we will refrain from such. Yes, sin is always sin.

Guardian of Truth XXIX: 4, p. 110
February 21, 1985