The Acceptable Christian Sin

I think my head may explode. Today we have THE Modern Reject guest posting on my little ole blog. Nicole Cottrell is the brilliant force behind one of my favorite reads. She consistently blows up my boxed-in thinking. I hope this 0ne provokes you to think a little.–Ken

The Acceptable Christian Sin

acceptable sinWhen I first came to know Jesus, there was quite a learning curve. I had no idea how much lingo and Christian-ese I would be forced to  learn. I could never have known how many rules and regulations I would need to remember.

I would listen to people say things like “I felt led…” or “God spoke to my heart…” and I felt confused. Led by what? How did God possibly “speak to your heart?”

Beyond the lingo though, I quickly learned that certain things were completely acceptable within the church culture, while others were not. When it came to the discussion of sin I realized that what I would have openly confessed was simply not okay to share.

The excited, geeked-out-for-Jesus newbie believer that I was didn’t know the difference. I knew that the Bible said to confess our sins to one another and our God who is faithful and just will forgive us our sins (1 John 1:9). So I was ready to confess. I was ready to lay it all on the table–the dirt, the grime, the reeking stench of my sin. I wanted it gone. I wanted that forgiveness.

But, I watched as it was quietly, subtly, and yet systematically made clear to me that only certain sins can be confessed–at least out loud. There were the acceptable “Christian sins” and then there was the rest.

You know the sins that are acceptable–gossip, laziness, forgetting to read your Bible, not spending as much time in your daily “quiet time” as you’d like, busyness, forgetfulness, and the like.

I would sit in a group of other young women and listen to them confess what I can only describe as “soft” sin. It wasn’t real life. At least, it wasn’t my life. It was fluff and surface-y. Worse, it hurt. I contrasted my own sin against what I heard being shared and I began to feel hopeless.

Perhaps this new Jesus wasn’t able to conquer my sin. Perhaps my sin was too big, too grimy, too black to be covered.

Because the sin I knew looked different. The sin that I sought forgiveness from was not “soft.” It was not “acceptable” to discuss in Christian church circles.

My sins were things like lust, fornication, debauchery, drunkenness, addiction. More specifically, my sins were promiscuity, pornography, drug-use, violence, and lie after lie  necessary to to keep up appearances.

But, over time I came to see what God sees: sin is sin. It all needs to be forgiven by a righteous loving God and it is all able to be forgiven. Jesus didn’t die for the fluffy sins or even the weightier sins. He died for them all. Each and every one.

Whether it be gossip or greed, lust or self-loathing–all sin separates us from God. All sin interferes with our fellowship with the Father.

No sin is more acceptable or okay. All sin should be confessed to one another, no matter how seemingly dark or scary, off-putting or unwelcome. We have to cultivate a church environment where sin is not judged, but rather confessed. Where condemnation does not take place, but rather freedom reigns.

Because there is no acceptable Christian sin. There is only us confessing out of obedience and God forgiving us out of His faithfulness.

So let’s hear it. What sin have you felt hesitant or scared to confess for fear of judgement? Have you ever felt like there were categories of sin, those that are acceptable and those that are not?

Nicole Cottrell- Modern Reject

Nicole is a hopeful romantic, baby wrangler, writer on a mission, and Kingdom seeker. When she isn’t flirting with controversy or tackling the Truth on her blog Modern Reject, you can find her knee-deep in sword fights and princess rescue efforts. You can stalk her on Twitter, Facebook, or wherever. She’ll stalk you right back. 

 

58 thoughts on “The Acceptable Christian Sin

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  1. Well I can’t really admit those here. The thing is that we seem to only admit and confess publicly sins that we are proud of. Like I have been so busy that I haven’t been able to read my Bible. Or I was so worried about this or that. Or gossip, and others will nod and then lean in wanting to listen to any gossip I might offer.

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    1. Larry,
      Well-said and I so agree. The “sins” we confess are the ones that still somehow make us look good. Down to only 5 quiet times with the Lord this week versus 7. Which, by the way, isn’t a sin because it’s not even a thing.

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  2. Yes! I’ve often found it interesting that you can walk in with a drinking problem and have a 450 lb secretary look down her nose at you. BOTH have issues with gluttony, but only one is judged for it. All too common stuff.

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      1. Interesting point. The sin is not so much in the drinking problem or the gluttony but in judging the other person. When we become judges, we are standing in the place of God & that is a far bigger problem than having that extra donut! God bless.

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    1. I would like to point out that merely being 450 lbs. does not automatically mean a person’s guilty of gluttony. After obesity led to the heart attack that killed my fiance, I did some reading about it, and I learned that its causes are much more complex than many believe. Yes, sometimes, it can be attributed to poor diet and lack of adequate exercise. But sometimes there are other causes (probably in combination), which include things that are actually not in the person’s control, like genetics. On this topic I recommend the book Understanding Obesity: The Five Medical Causes by Dr. Lance Levy, if you’d like to learn more.

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  3. For me confessing sins that are taboo, like pornography, lusting , sexual sins make people judge you but if i were to say something like oh I was not able to keep up with my bible reading or i was very lazy about my praying habits people are more accepting of that sin than the others. I have never talked about my struggles because of the fear of being judged and i feel like there is not a way out if all i do is going back to those sins even if i have confessed them to god. To find a person who doesnt judge is very hard.

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    1. Rainp,
      I commit to you that I will pray for the next 8 days for the Lord to bring you (or bring to you) to a place where true confession can take place, without judgement or condemnation. God cares about this. He will provide. Be encouraged.

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  4. Revealing sin is like answering the question “What are your 3 biggest weaknesses” in a job interview. !) Well I only read my Bible 5 times last week, 2) I forgot to pray on Wednesday, and 3) I feel like I don’t give enough of my time at church.

    Our righteousness is filthy rags. We get it with our heads, but not with our hearts.

    We do this because we are whitewashed sepulchers, choosing to have a face value relationship with those at church instead of living life honestly and trusting that God and his people will respond with grace and mercy. True community with other believers eliminates these walls.

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    1. Randy,
      Sadly, you are so right. What a great comparison too–our “job interview sins.” And now that I have experienced it, I agree that it is in true community–authentic family–that prevents these lies from flourishing.

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      1. We’ve got a lot of really great applicants to see today.We’ve got your resume on file and we’ll be in touch if we think you’re a fit. Oh and can you leave three references at the front desk? We’d prefer if these references all have spiritual titles.

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  5. “We have to cultivate a church environment where sin is not judged, but rather confessed. Where condemnation does not take place, but rather freedom reigns.” LOVE this!! Thank you for writing about this! I think the reservations we have about confessing our real, deep, dirty sin are often because we think we are the only ones. But that is a lie straight from satan. It divides us and sets against one another in a way and it makes God’s grace and power seem inaccessible. It has only been with one or two people that I have ever felt comfortable confessing it all. I am so thankful for those people in my life, but it is still a struggle a lot of the time. Even with them, where I know there is no judgement, I am all but constantly battling satan’s lies that they will condemn me if I share what I’m really going through. Nicole, you really hit the nail on the head with this one. This is a huge issue in the American church.

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    1. Ashleigh,

      You are so right friend about this being a lie directly from Satan. He has convinced us that our sin is too dark to be brought to the Light. But it is in the Light where God can bring freedom.

      I am now in a church family where we confess our sins openly, even corporately at times. It is both scary and exhilarating I cannot imagine ever going back to secretly carrying my sin in shame.

      I am thankful that you have friends who you can be honest with and pray that God will continue to speak truth to you in this area. Thanks for coming over and commenting too!

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  6. The sins that I can not say (funny all revolve around sex) also lead to not being able to talk about the abuse that lead to those sins. The being shamed by parents for materbating when I didn’t know what that word was. The smoking, drinking, lying, not eating, cutting, burning, tatooing, piercing. Well not all of them are sins but things I’m not allowed to talk about or be.

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    1. There is a heart condition at the root of all sin behavior regardless of what it is. Finding a way to truly confess it keeps me from just managing how it appears in my life and helps me find forgiveness for it and a way to eradicate it. Keep looking and praying for that “safe place” in Him.

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      1. Thank you Mr. Hagerman, I have found counseling and peace. My God of grace is alive and I have freedom and love. It does not mean there is freedom in church. I have with God’s help overcome self destruction that comes from hating myself from abuse and then sexual sin. It feels good to be “clean”. I am covered in tattoos and they show my journey with God and life and eventually people in my church will accept me for who I am with them and if not I’ll continue going and meeting God there cause he loves me with the past that he knows all about.

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    2. Kristin,

      My heart breaks as I read your comment because I know all too well how the trauma, abuse, shame, and bad theology that can lead to destruction. But, the fact that you can ackowledge that here proves Christ’s freedom in your life. I pray there be even more of it and that you will loudly proclaim what God has done. Thank you for commenting and sharing!

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      1. Thank you Mrs. Cottrell, I have triumph with my Savior. No I am not free to talk in church or within church circles, but that’s okay. I just know that when I go to church with my littles God meets me there even when I’m dragging my feet. I know people like the person they see (besides the tattoos) and working on being vulnerable to show someone (besides my solider husband) who I truely am, because if they would be okay with it I’m pretty amazing. Thank you for sharing today. I’m learning love love covers all and working on loving others that don’t feel like they fit the church mold but are there because that is where they need to be.

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  7. This is why I love and appreciate you so much, Nicole. The past six months of being in community with you has taught me that there is a safe place to enter into true confession, repentance and healing. We come to the other side of something holy, something altogether beautiful, something that God designed for us to do in community. Thank you for truly practicing what you preach.

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    1. “there is a safe place to enter into true confession, repentance and healing.”
      You are dead on. True healing can only come on the heels of true confession otherwise there is hitch that allows a residual part to remain.

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  8. Great post! About time someone said this. Sin is sin. It is humans who deem some worse than others. In God’s eyes we are all equal.

    I posted today about some addictions God is freeing me from.

    Thanks for the awesome post. God bless and thank you for your boldness.

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  9. Hey Nicole, another great post. Jerry Bridges has written an excellent book on subject this entitled, Respectable Sins: Confronting the Sins we tolerate. I highly recommend it!

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  10. Oh, I know this feeling so well. No one wants to be the one that drops the bomb in the middle of the “I haven’t prayed today” confession time only to be greeted with the sound of crickets. But you know the crazy thing I’ve found is that if one person is brave enough to do it, it opens up the doors for other people. I wish I could say I was that brave person. More often, I’m the one saying Hallelujah when someone else finally gets the courage to open the door.

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    1. Courtney,
      You are right, I think, that often it takes just one person. Transparency breeds transparency Honesty begets honesty. I encourage you to be the one. Trust the Lord’s promptings to speak and watch yourself and others be blessed.

      Thank you for sharing!

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  11. “We have to cultivate a church environment where sin is not judged, but rather confessed. Where condemnation does not take place, but rather freedom reigns.”- People are shocked when I don’t respond in horror to their confessions of homosexuality, addictions, abortions, etc…and it breaks my heart when they shrink back like a dog used to getting hit. Especially knowing I used to be their abuser. In the past I would walk around tsking all the sinners with no self control until I ended up doing everything I said I would never do…and then some. The good news is that there is Good News. Freedom can be had. Why would I mourn as someone who has no hope? I have great hope for any child molester, tsker, rapist, or vegetarian (I live among Hindus) who has been made alive and set free in Christ.
    This is my go-to scripture when I’m made aware of a believer battling with sin: If you see a Christian brother or sister sinning in a way that does not lead to death, you should pray, and God will give that person life. (1 John 5:16, NLT). He will give him life, isn’t that beautiful. Couldn’t we all use a little more of that?

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  12. “We have to cultivate a church environment where sin is not judged, but rather confessed. Where condemnation does not take place, but rather freedom reigns.”

    This is a great point; I think the ability to confess all of our sins one to another is reliant on true community which, to be honest, is something I don’t think the Western church is very good at.

    While the “church” is so often busy pointing all the things that are “wrong” with culture, I think one of the core problems is that our 21st century culture idolises individuality, and for the most part the church has swallowed that hook, line and sinker.

    A couple of hours on Sunday, and maybe another couple in the middle of the week make it hard to cultivate the true community necessary for this kind of vulnerability to be safe.

    I feel like I haven’t explained myself well, but I’ve got a wriggly sick baby on my lap, and I’m late for work 😉

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  13. I think in some circles lust is becoming more acceptable to confess. But only to a degree. It’s still very much a taboo subject in the offline church community. Even online it’s more active in communities where you are no interacting with people in your offline circles. For that reason I don’t think my blog called From Lust to Love will ever have a post go viral on Facebook.

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    1. Peter,
      Confessing lust, on some level, become more “trendy.” I hate even using that word, but in many cases it’s true. However, sites/non-profits like XXX Church have done an amazing job of creating open conversation around very taboo subjects. I hope this trend continues.

      I’d love to check out your blog too. Thanks for sharing.

      Like

      1. Indeed xxx church and covenant eyes have broken much needed ground. There is still a great need in the area of showing how (not just telling that) God is better than lust.

        My blog should have a link in Disqus. Or you can go to peterdanieljames .com

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  14. The part where you say the following is very important:

    We have to cultivate a church environment where sin is not judged, but rather confessed. Where condemnation does not take place, but rather freedom reigns.

    I learned this from a couple of books like “The ins and out of rejection” (Dr. Charles R. Solomon) and “True faced” (Bill Thrall)… both seem to show this same ideology and many do not seem to get it.

    In order to show this kind of non-judgmental attitude, we almost need to have the attitude of a counselor. I have had difficulty getting into this mindset of being more understanding, so I had to ask Jesus to help, and interestingly enough, He did help, and He did guide me into getting the understanding that it takes (not that I’m perfect either).

    Another big point is to learn the dirty little secret, which is that 100% of all humans have problems, hang ups, behavioral issues, attitudes, etc. It’s not just 2%, 10%, 25%, 50%, 75%, or 90%… it’s 100%.

    When a person has a judgmental attitude it is really just showing that the person is using a harsh attitude to cover up his or her own problems, or that they are wearing a mask of perfection to cover their imperfection.

    So let’s all take off our masks and be honest in a kind manner… I’ll be honest and say that I have a harsh attitude sometimes too.

    Thanks for this great article, and for allowing me to say these things. 8D

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  15. You reminded me of my early days, as a Christian. Slamming my fingers with a hammer and not knowing what to say. Our church people were mostly from bad backgrounds, so confessions were easier. Drinking, smoking and TV were sins but “adjusting your taxes” was acceptable. I struggled with the sin of eating in a bar while eating in a Pizza xxx was fine.
    I used to think a language and protocol course would be helpful for newbies. Oh, the bar thing?, was resolved by entering a side door and NOT sitting down. LOL.

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  16. Sins are sins. If we don’t share the badness of ourselves along with the
    goodness then we are doing the weak in faith and the unbeliever an
    injustice. Does the phrase “Goody-two-shoes” mean anything to you? It is
    a phrase that can be assumed of most Christians due to the lack of
    “sin” they express their lives to have had. It also could be deemed as a
    lie if they do not confess openly the worst of themselves. All have
    sinned and have come short of Gods Glory. Hope I made sense. 🙂

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  17. I think sometimes it’s easier to justify sins that everyone else does to yourself—if so-and-so does it, than it must be okay. There are sins that are obvious, but then there are issues of the modern age that the Bible doesn’t specifically speak to, like the duplication of copyrighted material. You also risk being labelled as a legalist or a hypocrite if you want to have a real discussion about such things.

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  18. I was just thinking of this yesterday. Our pastor was talking about lust and confessing our sins to others–I do NOT want to confess to any of my Christian friends that I am lusting. I asked God for forgiveness because only the night before a photo caught my eye on pinterest (that stuff has way too many racy photos) and I went for it. I asked for forgiveness.

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  19. Oh so true! In our community it is unheard of anyone even breaching the topic of sexual sin/lust/pornography. Sins like alcoholism have been tackled delicately, but there continues to be a taboo list of sins that are never mentioned. I for one have struggled with all of them and have ‘never’ found a space to confess them. Even with a counseller I fear being judged. So I have been content with confessing most of them to my spouse or others and leaving the rest to God.

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  20. My entire life, I’ve always felt like the black sheep. I was not a ‘cradle Christian.’ I grew up in a completely different faith denomination than the one I’m in now. Lots of guilt through my former churches. Hence, the black sheep moniker. When I first began attending various bible studies after becoming a Christian, I quickly learned that once again, I was the black sheep. My sins were rage, bitterness, unforgiveness, stealing, hatred, disobedience. I also acquired quite the colorful vocabulary over the years whenever I got angry (not quite speaking in tongues…LOL…picture the dad in A Christmas Story) and would fall back on it much too often. I think I freaked out many women when I opened up and let it rip with my confessions. They never said anything outright — they’d just become speechless and get that blank look on their faces. I remember the morning I was to be baptized, I gave my testimony first. Believe me — I made Mary Magdalene look like Mary Tyler Moore. One of the pastors asked me what my life looked like before I’d accepted Christ. As I rambled off my laundry list of sins (drug and alcohol addiction, occult and sexually immoral lifestyle, to name just a few.), you could have heard a pin drop throughout the entire sanctuary. And again, as I looked out at the sea of faces…the blank looks. All I could think of was “Ooops.”

    I’m still at the same church, but the women I’m in studies with now are raw and real. No Barbie Christians here. Thank God.

    This was an awesome post. Your transparency and sincerity are refreshing. Thank you!

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  21. I know I’m late to the conversation, but I just really wanted to thank you, Nicole, for talking about this; I was also the one on the prayer circle who was unafraid to confess the dirty sins…and I did it anyway, in spite of the disapproving looks and the “come-along-side” concern of those who cautioned against “over-sharing” and counseled discretion. I took a stand for Jesus – He did not shy away from the hard stuff, but looked right at it with compassion…and DEALT with it. O that we would do the same today!

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  22. Confession:

    I had an ongoing email correspondence with a woman other than my wife last year. I kept it a secret for six months. This was not good for me, my wife, or our marriage. We are still dealing with the aftermath.

    I have since made many changes to my social media connections, started counseling, and daily take my place in Christ.

    Pride is a bitter pill to swallow, but God has been good.

    Keep us in your prayers.

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  23. I agree that all sin is covered under the blood of Jesus, and that there is nothing we can’t go to God with for forgiveness. The sad thing is, we can’t expect that forgiveness from others, and arguably especially other Christians. I’ve been guilty of being more afraid of what other people thought that what God thinks of me, because at least I know my heavenly Father will forgive me.

    Also, when it comes to what is considered bigger sins (murder, child molestation..etc), there is no forgiveness from the outside world. I’ve even heard Christian leaders call out for their blood of these ‘evil-doers, killers of our children… monsters.’ How do we forgive the mass murderers? Do we hate the sin, forgive the sinner? Or, is it more complicated that that, especially if they have no remorse? I’m glad I don’t have to judge these people, that God is the ultimate judge. But we’re kidding ourselves if we say that we see all sin the same, because our world is imperfect and we’re human beings. Would you allow someone in your church who confessed to being a child molester around your kids?

    God is the only one that can truly know everything that’s going on inside a person. It’s terribly sad whenever I hear of someone who took their own life and the people closest to them didn’t know anything was wrong. Here’s hoping and praying that we all start to truly see and forgive those around us.

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    1. I think there is something to be said for being able to give a loving, listening ear and acting with prudence. You said “Here’s hoping and praying that we all start to truly see and forgive those around us.” I agree and will be praying to that end.

      Like

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