By Jamie Ivey
It’s so hard to be like Jesus, and yet the Scripture says to “be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God” (Eph. 5:1–2).
So being like Jesus is what we’re explicitly told to do, and yet it’s so challenging to actually do this—to walk with the love that Jesus showed, to give ourselves up for people the way Jesus did.
Jesus encountered people all of the time who were struggling with sin, and in all His encounters with them, He was never once shocked by their sin. He was disheartened by their sin; He was broken for their sin; He would eventually be condemned for their sin. But what we never see Jesus say to someone is this:
“How could you?”
“I’m so ashamed of you.”
“Who do you think you are?”
No, and the reason we don’t see Jesus react this way is because He knows something about people.
We are sinful people. “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23). Every single one of us.
Jesus never encountered anyone who hadn’t sinned, and yet He loved them in the midst of their sin. This is why it’s hard to be like Jesus. He loved no matter what.
He continued to pursue. No matter what. He stepped into messy situations. No matter what.
Now, before you get upset with me, let me clarify something again, in case you were sort of skimming over the last couple of paragraphs. Yes, Jesus is offended by sin, because all sin is against Him.
Yes, Jesus is appalled at sin, because all sin is against Him. Yes, Jesus is outraged over sin, because all sin is against Him.
But in all my years of reading about Jesus, I’ve yet to find a time when He is shocked by sin. Taken aback by sin. Flabbergasted by sin.
There’s no “Really? Again?” or “You seriously need to get your act together.”
But can I just go out on a limb here, and say that we struggle to be like Jesus? Being like Jesus is hard on many levels, of course. (Understatement of the year, I know!)
But this “not being shocked by sin” is one area we really struggle with. We are often shocked at people’s sin when it’s revealed to us or when they confess it to us. We think …
“I would never do that!”
“I thought you were better than that!”
I call this SIN SHOCK. And it’s a problem in our lives and in our churches. I believe it’s one of the major hindrances to people becoming free from their guilt and shame.
You won’t find this term in the dictionary, although after a quick Internet search, I did find a Japanese movie called Sin, Shock (weird, right?!). Still, I’d like to think I made it up.
Sin shock occurs when someone confesses their sin, or their sin is brought to the light, and people around them are shocked by what they’re seeing and hearing. I get it. We all do this, sometimes without even knowing it.
We take on the posture of someone who could never do such a thing as the person who’s confessing to us has done. We push people away with our words and/or body language.
Whether we intend to or not, we create a space where confession is not wanted or welcomed. But I want us to think about what this does to the culture we’re trying to develop in our churches and other relationships.
I have a dear friend who’s struggled with worry and anxiety throughout much of her life, which have led to many crippling bouts with depression. Sometimes the weight of it has confined her to bed for days, fighting stomach pains and so much more that’s been brought on by this condition.
I’ll never forget one day when we were talking about this, and I asked if she’d ever talked to anyone at her church about her struggles … because maybe if her community knew about it, I figured, they could help walk beside her through this battle.
What she said next has never left my brain, and it’s the essence of what sin shock does to a community. She told me she wasn’t ready to tell anyone about it because her husband was going through the process of becoming a deacon, and she wasn’t sure how they would feel about her (and him) if they knew about her struggles.
The reason she hadn’t told anyone was because of what they would think of her, because of what she either rightly or wrongly perceived as their potential sin shock.
I have cried so many tears over this epidemic in our church culture. I have cried tears over my own struggle with this.
I have cried tears over women choking down their battles with sin, living all alone with them, out of fear for what the rest of us would think. Let me tell you right now … This MUST change.
We need to be creating a culture in our churches where people feel the freedom to confess their sins BECAUSE WE HAVE JESUS.
We need to be creating a culture where people are expected to come regularly to each other in repentance BECAUSE WE HAVE JESUS.
We need to be creating a culture where people can talk about their struggles BECAUSE WE HAVE JESUS.
JAMIE IVEY (@Jamie_Ivey) Excerpted with permission from If You Only Knew: My Unlikely, Unavoidable Story of Becoming Free. Copyright 2018, B&H Publishing Group.