“Respectable Sins”


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That’s the title of the book that Jerry Bridges, the best-selling author of the classic “The Pursuit of Holiness,” wrote. Its subtitle is, “Confronting the Sins We Tolerate.” Indeed, it is “not [about] the obvious sins of our culture but the subtle sins of believers.” [1] That book is not actually easy to read. In fact, it is very convicting. Why? It confronts us with our compromise regarding God’s standards of holiness. Yes, we should be outraged with the way the world tramples upon His norms. However, Bridges asked a piercing question.
Why do we not also mourn over our selfishness, our critical spirit, our impatience, and our anger? It’s easy to let ourselves off the hook by saying these sins are not as bad as the flagrant ones of society. But God has not given us the authority to establish values for different sins. … Sin is sin. Even those sins that I call “the acceptable sins of the saints” — those sins that we tolerate in our lives — are serious in God’s eyes. [2] 
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Recently, God has confronted me through a loving rebuke by a fellow believer about one of those “respectable sins,” that is, anger. Sadly, I confess that I am guilty of seething with anger and expressing it through hurtful words. 

I have sinned not only by what I have said but also by how I have said it. I have wounded with my cutting words people who are so close to me and I havent been a good testimony for God. I have no excuse whatsoever. All I could do is ask for forgiveness. 

According to James 1:19-20, “Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God.(ESV. Emphasis added) The Message Version goes like this:
Post this at all the intersections, dear friends: Lead with your ears, follow up with your tongue, and let anger straggle along in the rear. God’s righteousness doesn’t grow from human anger. 
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If we want to live a righteous life, we have to avoid getting easily angered. Of course, there is such a thing as “righteous indignation” or an anger that “arises from an accurate perception of true evil—that is, a violation of God’s moral law.” [3] One good example is when our Lord Jesus cleansed the temple, driving away the moneychangers and the merchants. However,
righteous anger is always self-controlled. It never causes one to lose his temper or retaliate in some vengeful way. … It focuses on God and His will, not on me and my will. [4]
But, if we are honest enough, we tend to excuse our anger as righteous when in reality it is not. Even if we are reacting to a perceived violation of God’s Word, we may still be sinning with our anger.

Brothers and sisters, it is always wise to be “slow to anger.”

[1] Jerry Bridges, Respectable Sins: Confronting the Sins We Tolerate (Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress, 2007), 9.

[2] Ibid, 20, 21. Emphasis added.

[3] Ibid, 122. 

[4] Ibid.


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