They say that you become what you look at, and I think in many ways they're right. For example, if we spend a lot of time watching violent movies or video games we can become desensitized to violence, and some studies suggest that we are much more likely to behave violently. If we focus on everything that is bad then we are more likely to see bad everywhere. Likewise, when we focus on looking for the good and the beautiful, we are much more likely to discover it more often. The same is true when we focus on sin.
There is a story in John 9 (1-39) where Jesus and His friends were walking down the street together and they saw a man who was born blind. This prompted Jesus’ friends to ask Him whose fault it was; was it his or his parents sin?
Jesus replied “You’re asking the wrong question. You’re looking for someone to blame. There is no such cause-effect here. Look instead for what God can do. “(MSG). Jesus encourages His disciples to a beautiful new way to see. This perspective takes us from assessing blame to a call to something deeper. Jesus takes our focus off of sin and looking to blame and judge someone, and instead He points us to God and what God is doing!
Many of us today can get stuck like the religious folks of Jesus' day. Our shame, guilt and twisted sense of justice makes us more likely to look for who to blame and to determine who is acceptable to God and who is not. This chronic judging can seem so pious and spiritual (and that's why I think it appeals to our spiritual pride). Is it possible that in being so sinned focused we are missing what the Father is doing all around us? Is it possible that in our misguided piety we too miss the Kingdom of God? Consider Jesus’ closing remarks in verse 39 as He says:
“I came into the world to bring everything into the clear light of day, making all the distinctions clear, so that those who have never seen will see, and those who have made a great pretense of seeing will be exposed as blind.” (MSG)
When we Christians focus on sin we are promoting the Tree of of the Knowledge of Good and Evil not the Life we have in Christ. Perhaps more grievously, we partner in the work of the Satan as the accuser! Can we not see that we are not helping anyone (including ourselves) with our ministry of condemnation?
Yes, sin is serious. The plague of sin separates us from God, hurting ourselves and others; it is not to be ignored. But sin and condemnation is not the Good News. If the wages of sin is death, why do we focus on sin looking for life? Who looks for the living among the dead? Life begets life.
Conviction of sin is much different through the eyes of love. It's the gift of conviction of sin that helps us learn what is sinful. The gift of conviction however is never condemning or shaming rather it is an invitation to deeper life and authentic freedom. Conviction of sin is much more about healing, freedom, seeing, an awakening and a call to be who were are created to be!
In this light, repentance is as much turning to something (someone) as it is away from something. The difference is key. Turning to Jesus, to the Kingdom of God is a “get to”. When we are sin focused, we are focused on what we have to leave and produces a “should / have to” heavy obligation and often self-righteousness. A “get to” is more inspiring, empowering and compelling (it is Good News!!!) than a message of fear, shame and condemnation. More importantly, it focus' us on the source of our reconciliation and healing, the One who loves us with a perfect love; the source of genuine and lasting transformation. It rescues our faith from merely another form of moralism, and into the expanse of freedom and joy of relationship with the Lover of our souls. Where the plague of sin separates us from God, Jesus is the cure that reconciles us to God. When we keep our focus on Jesus, the fruit is a growing experience of relationship with God and transformation. As we do so, our capacity to sin is progressively diminished and our capacity to genuinely experience and express the love of God is exponentially increased!
"It seems the more I think about not sinning, the more I sin, but the more I think about just loving Jesus, the less I seem to sin. Falling in love seems to be the key." ~ John Wimber