Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Respectable Sins

The title of this post may have made you stare in horror or at least look twice. Respectable sins?!? There is no such thing!

It's actually the title of a book I recently read and plan to review....part of my vow to do more book reviews in 09.

Respectable Sins by Jerry Bridges comes with the tagline Confronting the sins we tolerate. It sold out remarkably quickly at the Women's Convention last year which shows that perhaps I'm not the only thing thinking that the Christian community really has watered down sin. Bridges also wrote The Pursuit of Holiness (which I haven't read) and apparently holiness seems to be his trademark writing topic. In other words, it is clear from Respectable Sins that he cares greatly about how Christians live among themselves and in the world.

When I first saw this book, my first thought was the 'respectable' people in churches. Church leaders, conservative old people....these are the people who are meant to be the godly and mature ones, the ones the rest of us are supposed to look up to and desire to imitate. But often I have been horrified when these 'respectable' people start bitching about others behind their backs, criticising and tearing others down, making coarse and inappropriate jokes etc. I'm left thinking, well, you aren't so respectable at all and I wonder whether they actually see what they're doing as sin....or if I did the same thing, if I would be quickly rebuked.

That's the whole reason behind Respectable Sins. It's confronting the sins we tolerate. The things we see as minor or even neglect to call sin. Bridges points out that Christians have become so preoccupied with pointing the finger at the world and thinking we are good because we don't murder or commit adultery that we have lost sight of the need to deal with our own subtle sins.

Some of the sins he discusses are:
  • Anxiety and Frustration
  • Discontentment
  • Ungratefulness
  • Pride
  • Selfishness
  • Impatience and Irritability
  • Lack of self-control
  • Judgmentalism
  • Envy and Jealousy
  • Anger
  • Sins of the tongue
  • Worldliness

It is heavy book (subject-wise) and I suggest that if you want to read it, you approach it not with the casualness I did. I admit I approached the book certain that it would be the perfect tool to batter over the head of people I see as annoying hypocrites....but I came away convicted of my pride and that the book was as relevant to me as it would be to anyone else. It is a book that will humble you and none of us really want to be humbled.

Jerry Bridges doesn't write from a position of moral superiority. Rather, as the book's blurb says, Jerry writes not from a height of spiritual accomplishment but from the trenches of his own battles with sin. He actually uses examples of sin from his own life in each of the chapters.

With what I've written so far, you may be thinking that this sounds like a depressing book and that you'd rather save yourself the guilt-trip. But it is a book not without hope. In the opening chapter, Bridges discusses what it means for Christians to be 'saints'...when it seems we are so often the opposite. He emphasises the work of Jesus on the cross and the power of the Holy Spirit at work in believers. So often I get frustrated because I cannot conquer a certain sin, it's like a neverending cycle. We are not alone; the Spirit is working in us even when we can't see it but we need to co-operate with his work. I actually think it would be good to have these chapters at the end for encouragement as well as at the beginning.

I don't agree with every little thing Bridges writes but overall it is a book I highly recommend and a message that Christians desperately need to hear. For we were saved to love and serve God and one another.

If you have already read the book, please leave a comment about what you thought of it. If you'd like to borrow it, just let me know and it may be arranged.

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