There are plenty of passages throughout the Bible that contain lists of sins (Proverbs 6:16, Malachi 2:14-16, Romans 1:28-32, 1 Corinthians 5:10, 6:9-10, Revelation 21:8, just to name a few). Romans 1 even mentions “inventors of evil.” As if there isn’t enough evil already, some people are inventing new ways to be evil!
If you’re going to invent something, at least put your energy toward something that matters, like lowering my cell phone bill or the cost of printer ink. Come on, people!
Since there’s such a wide variety of ways to sin, 7 billion people on the planet who do it, and people who are inventing new ways to do it, that means sin looks different in all of us. Like our fingerprints are unique, you could say each of us has a unique “sin-print” as well: a method and habit of how and when we sin.
This makes relating to and forgiving one another extra challenging, because we all do things so differently. Sure, you and I have plenty of sin in common, but we have plenty of tendencies that are unique to us and/or that we don’t understand about each other.
The dictionary defines “empathy” as “the ability to understand and share the feelings of another.” When it comes to helping others through their struggle with sin, we need some sin empathy (or what you might call “sin-pathy”). We need to cultivate in our hearts the desire and ability to empathize with the sin, struggles, and weaknesses of others – especially those who sin in ways we don’t understand.
If it didn’t happen overnight, it won’t undo itself overnight. Addictions are real things that take time to work out. Marriages involve feelings, emotions, and people who don’t heal immediately. An abusive, destructive marriage won’t heal itself overnight just because you finally made the decision to do the right thing. Don’t beat yourself up because it’s taking a while to heal, and don’t beat that person up because they haven’t conquered that addiction/behavior/activity just yet.
Sure, laziness is the enemy of progress, but so is legalism. Have some grace!
I understand the pain of a kid whose parents are divorced, or a recovering porn addict. I know what it’s like to be a dad, a husband, and a pastor. It’s pretty easy for me to connect with people along those familiar lines. I don’t know what it’s like to be a pregnant mom stressed out during a deployment, a recovering alcoholic, or a kid who can’t get ahead in school. The great thing about God-given empathy is that I don’t have to understand! You don’t have to know how I feel to walk through it with me!
So how do you respond when you don’t relate?
Remember that you relate more than you may want to admit. You may not sin in the specific way your friend or wife does, but you do sin. Find some common ground.
Treat others like you would want to be treated. I think Jesus said something about that…
Pray. Pray for their healing, for God to help you love them, and for God-given empathy for their situation.