In previous articles I have consistently pointed out that we do not look within ourselves to find the Gospel, but that we look outside of ourselves. Too often we locate hope in the subjective person rather than objectively in Christ’s death, burial and resurrection. My friends, the Gospel is outside of us.
Just as we look outside of ourselves to the Gospel, we also need to look outside of ourselves to discern sin. In other words, our subjective feelings are often not a good standard to judge sin.
I am reminded of a friend who was constantly offended. My friend’s feelings were regularly picking up on negativity which was then interpreted as sin that was occurring against her and in the church. She frequently pointed out sin, demanded repentance from others and expected apologies for sin that she identified on the basis of her own spiritual intuitions. In all fairness to her, she was correct on discerning sin, but only about 50-60% of the time.
The problem with her reasoning was not that she confronted sin, but that she identified sin on the basis of her feelings. When her feelings were offended she would cry out, “Sin!” The error with this is that personal feelings are not a good standard to judge sin. Now, keep in mind that the Law of God has been inscribed on our hearts (see Romans 2:15), which means that there are times where our internal moral compass ‘does’ discern sin. However, due to the fall of mankind, our consciences have been dulled. This is the reason why God originally published the 10 Commandments on stone, to bring out what was originally written on mankind’s heart. Not only do we have dulled consciences, but we complicate sin when our insecurity and pride get in the way, therefore, we most definitely need an objective standard outside of us to discern sin.
Simply put, feelings are not a good standard to judge sin. If they were the basis of discerning sin, we would fall hostage to moral relativism where everybody’s individual feelings would constitute what is right and wrong. Furthermore, just because feelings are offended, that doesn’t necessarily indicate that sin has happened. Keep in mind that we are many times sinned against and there are other times where God’s righteous Law painfully exposes our own sin. We often experience the same feelings when we are sinned against as well as when our sinful nature is confronted by a loving rebuke. To automatically attribute negative feelings to the category of “I’ve been wronged” is very naïve and places us on the moral high ground rather than placing the scriptures on the moral high ground.
Practically speaking what does this look like? Positive feelings don’t always confirm something as good and negative feelings don’t always confirm something as immoral. If you are offended ask yourself: “On the basis of the Word of God, and not my personal feelings, did the person sin against me? Am I offended because I have been sinned against or could I possibly be offended because my personal sin may have been confronted/exposed?”
Thank God that we have been given the Bible, both Law and Gospel. Thank God for the 10 simple Words known as the 10 commandments that reveal to us what sin is. Praise God that we are not left to subjective navel-gazing to discern our ethics.