A Sinner and Their Singular Sin

From Paul Tripp Ministries

“The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost” (1 Timothy 1:15).

If you want to effectively share the gospel with lost souls in your neighborhood—or your workplace, family, sports team, social group, etc.—it’s important to always maintain an attitude of humility.

Remember, you are more like your non-Christian neighbor, friend, family member, or co-worker than unlike them.

And what are you as a human being? First and foremost, you are created in the image of God. When you look at your neighbor and see the face of God, your behavior toward them will radically change.

You are also complex and multi-faceted. You have a past shaped by people and circumstances that were outside of your control, more than likely with hurt or trauma. You have a long list of present-day struggles and challenges. And you have hope for a better future.

And so does your lost neighbor. How well do you know their story, their struggles, and their aspirations?

Even though you have been adopted by your Heavenly Father, you are still struggling with your identity. You are still searching for inner peace. You are still crying out for unconditional love. You are still chasing after hope.

And so is your lost neighbor. All of this should stimulate compassion for the unsaved souls whom God has placed in your life.

“When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd” (Matthew 9:36).

You are also a sinner. But you are not a sinner defined by a singular sin.

What do I mean by that? Well, perhaps you struggle with anger, and you sin against your spouse and children with sudden outbursts. But we don’t say, “He’s an anger.”

Maybe an area of weakness for you is self-righteousness, and your sinful tendency is to look down on others in their sin. But we don’t say, “She’s a pride.”

So, as you look at, pray for, and interact with your lost neighbor, resist the urge to label them as a singular sin. That may be their most visible struggle, or even their publicly embraced identity, but all of us are a package of strengths and weaknesses with a complex story.

If you want to effectively share the Good News of Jesus with your neighbor, you have to know your neighbor. You have to understand how they became who they are today and why they act as they do. You have to respect them, love them, and see them as so much more than just their sin—or specifically, a sinner defined as a singular sin.

Now, this never means compromising the truths of Scripture. Loving your neighbor never means endorsing their sin. If wrong could be right, or if the holiness of God didn’t matter, then the Jesus you are sharing would have never had to die!

Loving your neighbor and incarnating the Messiah will never require you to dismiss or endorse their sin. But it does change the way you view and treat a sinner.

Don’t move towards an unbeliever with a fixed definition of who they are because of a singular sin. Don’t reduce their complexity as a human being down to one area of weakness. Don’t turn them into a project with the goal of fixing a specific struggle.

Move toward them with a curious mind and a compassionate heart. Look into the face of your neighbor—even into the face of someone who may otherwise disgust you—and see the image of God himself and the sacrifice of his Son on the cross.

“For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:6-8).

A Prayer for Today: God, please make me the kind of person who doesn’t reduce people made in your image into singular sin struggles. Help me to see them with your eyes. Help me to have compassion and care for them. Help me to share the gospel with others in a spirit of humility and care that emulates your care and compassion for all sinners…sinners just like me. Amen.

God bless,

Paul David Tripp

Discussion Prompt for Children

Think of one area that you constantly struggle with. Would you want me to label you by that one struggle? Why or why not?

Reflection Questions

1. How can seeing your non-believing neighbor properly (as someone made in the image of God) radically change your behavior toward them? Would you say that you know your lost neighbor’s story, struggles, and aspirations? If not, why not take the time to get to know those things about your neighbor?

2. Why are all of us a package of strengths and weaknesses and not someone who should be labeled by a singular sin? If you’ve labeled someone in your life as a singular sin, would you want them to do the same with you? How can you be intentional about getting to know your neighbor, understanding who they are, where they came from, and what they aspire to be/do?

3. Why is endorsing or dismissing someone’s sin different from respecting and loving them as someone made in the image of God? As we share the gospel with others, how can we both incarnate Jesus to them without dismissing or endorsing their sin?

4. What would it look like for you to intentionally move toward non-believers with a heart of compassion instead of a posture of judgment? How can you have both a curious mind and a compassionate heart? Pray right now for God to give you the ability to see others as people who are made in his image. Ask him to help you not fixate on one specific struggle or sin they may have, but instead care about them the way Christ does for all sinners.

A Sinner and Their Singular Sin

New Hope Presbyterian Church Bridgeton, NJ

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