(Photo: Dan Delzell)
Do you ever get the feeling these days that if you tried to help someone you love escape from sin, you might be accused of judging that person? You are not alone if you feel this way. It is a dominant mentality in our culture today. If you or someone you know has been duped by the psychobabble of our modern age, here is an important insight for you my friend: "Better is open rebuke than hidden love." (Proverbs 27:5)
You most likely were not taught this in school, and perhaps not even at home. There are churches today which are even moving in the opposite direction. In the name of "love," some pastors now rarely use the word "sin." They believe it will damage the self-image of the person. The Bible doesn't say that Christians need to have a good self-image. Instead, God wants to build up what I would call our "Christ-image" as believers, where our entire life is now expressed in Him. (see 2 Cor. 3:18)
To judge others is to look down on them and to think that you are a superior person. Judging others is a sin. To love a family member or friend enough to tell them the truth about their sin is an act of compassion, as long as it is done in humility and pure love. Who among us doesn't need to hear the truth when we have strayed off the path and become entangled in sin?
Picture this scenario. You see someone you love who is living in deliberate and persistent sin. You easily recognize it because you have been there yourself with your own issues. You want to help, but you are not sure what to do. And you have been brainwashed to think you would be judging that person to point out why that particular behavior is wrong in God's eyes. People everywhere are in chains to sin, and yet most of us who are in a position to help are severely limited by the straightjacket wrapped around us through our false understanding of "judging."
The Bible teaches that we as sinners need to be told when we have gone off the rails. We need tough love from someone who is not arrogant and who cares deeply about our well-being. We need someone to love us enough to tell us the truth....and not just to tickle our itching ears. That itch within us is coming from self....not from the needs of our soul. Our soul is dying to hear the truth about our problem areas, as well as the remedy which is found at the cross.
"Hidden love" as seen in the passage above is a sentimental feeling usually found in someone who is battling insecurity. This insecurity often develops from the psychology they have been spoon-fed to build up their self-image. They don't feel good about themselves unless someone flatters them, and they honestly believe that love does not get too specific about sin. They are afraid to damage the other person's self-image and afraid of being seen as judgmental. It is all based on the misguided effort to build up self….rather than the reality of sin, grace, and the cross.
Those Christians who are grounded and secure in Christ don't worry about the self-image of those they love. That doesn't mean they don't care about the emotional health or feelings of others. Far from it. It just means they have learned the secret to contentment, and they want their loved ones to experience it too.
True peace and joy is not found in having your ears tickled by a "feel good" message. It comes from forgetting yourself altogether and keeping your thoughts on the goodness and love of Christ. If deliberate sin has gotten in the way of your walk with Christ, it won't help you if someone who knows your issue just beats around the bush. You need to be told the truth about your specific sin from someone who loves you, and you need to know that God still loves you unconditionally.
Psychology spends so much time dealing with your past....and your feelings.....and how good you are as a person....and how your weaknesses are not really "sins," but just things about you that some people don't understand. Psychology says, "If they really knew the struggles you've been through, they would understand that you are doing your best and that you just want to be accepted." That approach does nothing to heal your inner person....it just places band-aides on your fragile emotions and your feelings about yourself which require constant affirmation.
Of course we all want to be accepted. But the biblical method is much different than the psychological approach. The biblical method is to inform us when we have gone off the reservation and have become ensnared in a sin. We are often too blind to see it ourselves when we are right in the middle of it....and the culture around us is likely to convince us that it is more of a "struggle" or "weakness" than a "sin."
Psychology knows nothing about sin against God. The mind of natural man is only concerned with his self-image. Those who have "the mind of Christ" (1 Cor. 2:16) are eager to have their sins pointed out so that they can flee in the other direction by God's grace. David beautifully expressed this holy desire in Psalm 139:23,24: "Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting." The last thing in David's mind was his self-image. It's out of love for Christ that believers desire to hear about their own sin. It's out of love for self that people refuse to hear about their own sin, and refuse to help others escape their sin.
If you teach people to be concerned with their self-image rather than with the pursuit of holy living as a Christ-follower, you end up with people who enjoy having their ears tickled by smooth talking psychologists. Some of these psychologists sit in an office, and some of them stand behind a pulpit. It's easy for a preacher to get off-message if he gets away from defining sin and grace. God certainly went into plenty of detail to define sin in His love letter to us. The least we could do is to pass it along to others the way it has been graciously given to us.
The Bible says, "Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently." (Galatians 6:1) That is a command to every Christian who is "spiritual," which is to say, every Christian who is grounded in God's grace and filled with compassion for those caught in sin. It is not our job as Christians to go and tell everyone in the world where they are sinning.....but it is our job to help those around us who become trapped in sin....and to listen to those around us when we ourselves become trapped in sin. That is how the New Testament church is designed to work....but we must remember to always do it "gently" as instructed in this passage from Galatians.
Psychology is powerless to address man's deepest spiritual needs. It does not have the Holy Spirit's power to address the cancer of sin and then apply the healing balm of God's grace. Psychobabble is as unprepared to provide Christian love as I am to perform surgery on a cancer patient. When you are dealing with cancer in the body or the soul, you need a specialist.
The only Person qualified to get down to the deep issues of sin is God. He often chooses to work through the loving reproof of a Christian friend or Christian preacher. God's Word brings real healing when the tools of the Great Physician are utilized. The "sword of the Spirit" is the Word of God (Ephesians 6:17), and it "penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit." (Hebrews 4:12) In other words, it cuts deep into those areas that have been ravaged by the cancer of sin. God works within our hearts to give us a hatred for our sin and a love for righteous living. Psychology is incapable of giving us either of those precious gifts.
Your self-image craves personal flattery because it makes you feel good about yourself. Your "Christ-image" desires to become more Christ-like, even when that involves being told about those areas of your life that are offensive to God. Your self-image can't handle such direct confrontation and constructive criticism, but the "real you" can more than handle it if you are born again. In fact, the real you hungers and thirsts to be more like Christ....and not just to be told that your shortcomings are the result of your upbringing and not really your fault. That flattery itches the ears of your self-image, but does nothing at all to help your soul advance in a life of genuine discipleship.
Once God gets your attention regarding your sin, don't be afraid to "own it." Confess it to God….and turn away from it….and believe that Jesus died to pay for your sins on the cross. There is no other means of escape....for you, or for your loved ones.
Is your love for others hidden, or is it overflowing in the power of the Holy Spirit? Only God can equip and empower you to speak the truth in love, even when it means going into some areas that are uncomfortable to address. Surgery gets messy, but it's worth it for the sake of the patient.
God didn't mince words when He inspired the Bible to be written for our benefit. He loved us enough to send His only Son to die for our sins....and He loved us enough to tell us the truth about ourselves and our need for His grace.
Psychobabble has left so many people in a straightjacket. We need Christian love to free us....by addressing sin and assuring every repentant sinner of God's forgiveness in Christ. Each of us needs someone to love us that much, because each of us is more than capable of deceiving ourselves into living a life of deliberate and habitual sin.
If you truly believe you are incapable of ever deceiving yourself, I have some news for you my friend....you have obviously been receiving way too much hidden love in your life. It's time to leave your self-image behind so that you can experience Christ and His love once and for all. His love for you and me was not hidden as He paid for our sins on the cross....and His love will heal us if we are serious about having His image formed in us.