Sunday, March 25, 2012

Publicizing a "Public" Sin

So... how and when ought a pastor speak out about sin? I know the classic distinction that is made is between private sins and ones that are public -- private being the ones that aren't know, and then public ones being the ones that are entirely well known by all and happen openly.

Here's thing. Just because something happens "in public" doesn't mean that it is public sin.

Well, what can that possibly mean?

An example - let's say I'm a Applebees and I see Church member "Dwight" get completely hammered, throw a plate on the floor in anger, just make a total fool of himself.

This isn't necessarily a public sin. Is there an arrest with public notification? Is it something EVERYONE knows about? Nope... it's Dwight making a fool of himself.

Therefore, if I show up at church and say, "Let us not behave boorishly... like Dwight here" -- what happens is this. I'm not preaching against sin, I'm not confronting it... I'm making people think, "Oh, well, what did Dwight do?" I shouldn't preach, "And let's try not to get ferschnickered at Applebees like some of us have taken to" -- because than, instead of the law being used as a tool to bring about repentance the hearers instead think, "Well, do you know what's going on... oooOOOooo, I wonder who the pastor is talking about."

If one's addressing of a sin publicizes that sin... it wasn't a public sin and it shouldn't have been publicly addressed.

There is a need and a desire to cover people from shame... Noah gets covered when he is drunk... and I doubt Shem or Japeth went on about how "some people can't hold their wine".

The temptation for us is this -- we think everyone knows what we know, has read what we've read. We are in an information happy society where we want to publicize the random thoughts we have. I'm doing that here, in fact. The danger is this -- if I say, "I'm going to call _____ to the carpet for his shameful _______" -- most people don't know about it... why am I just bringing up more shame?

Ah well, thus is life.

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