"Is listening to secular music a sin?"
"Is having a tattoo a sin?"
"Is smoking weed a sin?"
I promise, I've heard just about every question you could imagine. Something I come across very frequently in my adventurous discussions with people is an in-depth concentration with figuring out what’s a sin. An attempt to understand these unique moments, where we as Christ-followers aren't quite sure if an act we commit is too dangerous to our spiritual condition or not.
We ask, "But what if this isn't actually stated in the Bible or the New Testament?"
It almost reminds you of the young married couple who’s trying to figure out where to draw the line before marriage. How much can they get away with before jumping over the broom?I think we find ourselves asking the wrong question, because we’re focused on the wrong thing: SIN.
I want to share with you a scripture I found, that might help to reshape our perspective:
"Therefore, since we have such a great cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and sin which so easily entangles us, so that we can run with endurance the race that is set before us."
- Hebrews 12:1 (NASB)
Right now I want you to take a special look at the word "AND" in the second line of the verse. It's a conjunction. Generally speaking, conjunctions are used to separate words or different aspects of one sentence. In this case, we're talking about the word "encumbrance" and the word "sin".
Now here's a good question: Why in the world would the author of Hebrews separate "encumbrance" and "sin". Couldn't they have just put them both together and said "lay aside every sin." ?
We know what sin is. Any act we commit that goes against the command of God. A self-fulfilling step we take to choose our desires over His heart. It’s choosing the desires of the flesh over the command of God. Or you know, when your Mom asks you to wait until after dinner . . . . . but that cheesecake is just too tempting.
But this word encumbrance is what really sets the tone of Hebrews 12:1. Encumbrance meaning a weight or hindrance. Something that is dragging you down. Something that is more of a burden than it is a help to your personal relationship with God. I mean, can't we all relate to that? Something in your life that's dragging you down; slowing you up; hindering you from reaching your greatest potential. I think that's another question to ask in these unique moments when we're unsure of our actions. At times, maybe even more reasonable than "Is it a sin?" What about. . .
"Is it slowing you down?
"Is it hindering you from walking in the character of Christ."
"Is it producing any spiritual fruit in your life?"
"Is it causing you to drag your feet, instead of running towards the Light of Jesus?"
The end of Hebrews 12:1 describes a race that we're running. My parents are runners. Whenever I see them leave to go running, I notice that they usually attempt to dress as light as possible. No book bags, or extra baggy clothing. They know that in order to keep up their endurance throughout the run, they'll need as less weight attached to their bodies as possible.
See, we're all running the race of life, and sometimes it's more than just the things we theologically or biblically categorize as a sin against God, that hinders us from reaching the finish line of perfected faith. I think sometimes we allow cultural encumbrances. Weights, burdens, things that cling to our Spirits, to drag us down and keep us from getting to where we need to be in Christ.
Is listening to secular music an encumbrance for you?
Is marking your body with ink an encumbrance for you?
Is the relationship you're in an encumbrance for you?
Is being on social media 24/7 an encumbrance for you?
If not, what about for others? What about those around you? That's what I LOVE about Hebrews 12:1. The very first part of the scripture ISN'T EVEN ABOUT YOU! It makes it explicit that "There are SO many people watching you", watching your lifestyle, watching your character. Waiting for that one moment where they can question your claim of godliness and use it to justify their distance from God's will. Is what you're doing pointing people to God's standards, God's character, God's love? Or is it pointing towards the culture of the world?
If your life is your message to the world, it's important to assess whether it's pointing to God, or something else. Jesus tells us that if we want to be His disciples, we must first deny ourselves, pick up our Cross, and THEN we can follow Him. But, I think sometimes we pick up our Cross and a few other Crosses too. Adding more burdensome to the progressiveness of our faith. Remember, what might be an encumbrance for you, might not be an encumbrance for others. This is really a calling for personal examination and intimate sacrifice. As Jesus, so willingly gave up His life to save ours, what are you willing to sacrifice and lay down so that your life exists as an instrument to point more souls to His salvation? What encumbrances are you willing to cast out of your life, so that you can fully answer the calling to be an authentic follower of Jesus?
The next time you feel like asking “is that a sin?” Instead just ask… “What does the character of Jesus look like?” When we focus on who Jesus is and allow ourselves to walk in Him, we don’t need to worry about what is a sin or not. When we know our identity in Christ we don’t have to live based on our ideals of what’s right and wrong. Instead we can fully trust Him to work in and through us while we act intentionally to lay aside the extra weight. We can stop focusing on sin, and start working towards the solution, in Jesus Christ.
Dylan Rucker | UI Executive Director