Can God use sin sinlessly? Can God allow sinful things to happen to you? Can these sinful allowances be for your good? The answers to these questions are obvious.
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Yes, God can righteously use sin. One glance at the gospel, specifically the cross of Christ, and you see the most heinous evil ever acted out in the world. And you know the death of Christ was not only God’s will (Isaiah 53:10), but it was His kindness to the world (John 3:16).
The day Christ died on the cross was a horribly sad day! But strangely enough, though his death was heinous, we benefit from the sin of others. Shockingly, Christ was acutely aware that what was happening to Him was designed by God and for our blessing (Hebrews 12:2; Luke 22:42).
Though we can accept God’s active involvement in the death of Christ, it is more challenging to embrace God’s active and righteous participation in our lives, especially during circumstances that are adverse to our preferences like when others sin against us.
The sinfulness of someone against you does not take God by surprise. It’s imperative that you understand how God is actively involved in your life. He is ahead of you, planning your life and preparing you for something wonderful (Genesis 39:2).
One of the ways God uses difficult “sin events” in your life is to help you identify things that need to change inside of you. This hard truth is why I say that God is using sin sinlessly for your good and His fame.
I was counseling a gentleman a few years ago. He was angry about his sinful relative, who was acting like a jerk. The evidence was objective, and my friend was descriptive about what his relative did to him. Though I was sympathetic to what was happening, it was apparent that he was sinning with anger, criticism, anxiousness, bitterness, slander, and fear.
His “sin constellation” was troubling to me. Jesus taught that our tongues communicate what is in our hearts. (Luke 6:45) According to Christ, my friend was sinning badly. It was not only his relative with a problem. I framed my response to my friend this way, hoping he would see God’s purposes in his situation.
Your relative is an instrument of righteousness in the hands of the Lord that He is using to identify more sanctifying work that needs to happen in your heart.
Being sinned against is one of the more difficult situations to respond to God with faith, hope, humility, and gratitude. Typically, in the moment of experiencing the sin of another, the temptation is to react sinfully to the sinner. When the heat of life is bearing down on us, it is difficult not to yield to the temptation to respond poorly to the one bringing the discomfort rather than seeing how God might be working all things for good (Romans 8:28).
Our wrong responses are similar to the day Christ died, where the people perceived the persecution from the evil ones but missed the more significant, profound, and redemptive purposes of God. Notice how Peter talked about the Lord’s sovereign planning and how He used evil people to accomplish His objectives.
This Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men. God raised him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it. – Acts 2:23-24
Giving thanks to God at the moment when the sinfulness from another is pressing in on you is the response of a mature God-centered Christian. Your thankfulness is not for the sin or the sinner, but in knowing sovereign Lord is working a higher purpose in your life.
My friend was sinning. Though he was right in his evaluation of what his relative was doing, he was wrong to react sinfully to his relative’s sin. It is never right to respond sinfully to sin regardless of what the evil against you is.
Permitting painful situations in my life is one of the ways the Lord lets me know the condition of my heart. He does not have to do this for me. He does not have to care about me. When the heat comes into my life or when someone does not meet my expectations or when someone blindsides me with their junk, the temptation to react sinfully is strong as evil spews forth from my heart.
Episodes Aren’t Patterns
You want to be like Jesus, which is you practically submitting yourself to His control. The tethering of Christ to his Father released Him from the controlling power of others.
Did their actions hurt Him? Yes! Was it sinful? Absolutely! It was more pain than I could ever imagine. But His connection to His Father kept Him from the controlling influence of evil individuals.
You are not Jesus, but He is in you if you’re a Christian. You have the power resident in you to overcome the evil of others. There are two wrong ditches here. One is trying to be perfect, and the other is never owning your failures. You will fail, and you must own your failures, which is the beginning of your transformation.
Don’t beat up yourself if you respond poorly. Learn from it. Ask God to help you. Find a competent friend to come alongside you. But, by all means, own your wrongs. Do right even if your annoying friend refuses to change.
Use Discernment – Another obstacle, and maybe the hardest of all, is living with a person who sins repeatedly and unendingly against you. While you want to respond with Christlikeness, you must also exhaust all the means available to you to find help for yourself and the aggravating person in your life.
The scope of this article is not about ongoing abuse. This article deals with the episodic annoying person in your life and how you should respond to that individual. A continual pattern of evil against you is another matter. (Refer to the articles linked above for more help.)
Call to Action
- When someone sins against you, where is your primary focus? In Christ? Or in the one who sinned against you? Another way of asking this question is whether or not you’re problem-centered or Christ-centered?
- You can measure your maturity by how you are responding to any current frustrating person in your life.
- Read 1 Peter 2:20-25 for more perspective. Ask God to help you walk in the steps of the Savior.
Also published on Medium.