Evangelism / Relationships / Theology / September 24, 2012

Can you catch sin like a cold?

I have a college student who works part time for me and last week he came into the office sounding like he swallowed a frog and with his nose dripping like a public restroom faucet. He told me that some sort of cold bug had swept his dorm floor and they were all sick. In that living situation there’s nothing do be done. Close quarters mean shared germs no matter what. They couldn’t have avoided each other if they had wanted to. Many Christians, though, act as if this is the proper way to avoid sin, to avoid people who “have” it. But sin isn’t a bug to catch.

So many Christians live in cultural quarantine, shutting themselves off from what they see as sinful influences. They avoid “bad” people and even places. They talk about those people and places like they are disease carriers – “We can’t have them around” or “We couldn’t go there.” They act like someone can sneeze sin onto them, that they will catch the bad decisions and guilt of another through physical proximity. What does his shunning communicate to those we have labeled “unclean”? Exactly that, Christians think they are unclean. Not the ideal way to draw people to Jesus. But sin is not an infectious disease.

We don’t “catch” sin. It’s in us from birth. We are sin carriers. It’s only by the grace of God that we can become immune to the virus that lives in us, that we can live a life without its symptoms oozing and coughing and exhaling out of us onto others, not to infect them but to influence them. Because of the work of Christ we are able to choose whether or not to sin. It is a decision, one that we often have a very hard time making, but a decision nonetheless. Sin is a theology too. It is a belief, or lack thereof, in the goodness and work of Jesus. It is this theology, this belief that informs our decision and drives us.

So, when we are around obvious sin, those people and places, we can’t catch their sin. We can choose their sin, but that is a matter of decision, of belief, of theology. If we hold fast to Jesus there is no risk of that sin invisibly taking hold of us like a flu bug might. How freeing! We no longer have to keep our distance or live in cultural quarantine. We can engage those people with grace and freedom without fear. Because we are near Jesus we can be near to anyone without fear that they will make us more like them than like Him.


Sep 24, 2012

Love it! Nice work.

Sep 25, 2012

It’s true, but this seems like one side of the coin. What about “do not be deceived: bad company corrupts good character?”, and “He who walks with the wise becomes wise, but a companion of fools will suffer harm”?

    Sep 25, 2012

    That is definitely worth considering, but I think even those ideas rest on the principle of influence and decision making not proximity. If our only or primary influences are negative we’re in trouble, but distancing ourselves from troublemakers just to avoid their sin doesn’t work either. Also, because of the decision making and influence aspects, this whole idea is contingent on maturity. The immature will be much more easily influenced and should thus be more careful with their proximity.

    Sep 26, 2012

    James is speaking about mature Christians who have real religion when he talks about those who keep themselves unstained from the world. Stains only occur by contact, much like a cold.

Sep 25, 2012

I love this quote:

“Because we are near Jesus we can be near to anyone without fear that they will make us more like them than like Him.”

I really want to grow in this area. It’s so crazy that we don’t understand the real Jesus when it comes to the treatment of sinners. We forget our own need for Him to reach out to sinners.

    Sep 26, 2012

    Not to nitpick, but one can be stained by wetting one’s self, drooling on one’s self, sweating, etc. Stains of worldliness come from within as well as without. And stainn from outside are still a matter of decision rather than mere proximity.

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