Of all the stories surrounding Peter, there’s one in particular that strikes me as odd: the one in Galatians 2 with Peter playing the hypocrite.
It’s a deceptively complex story, with Peter having zero problem being with the Gentiles when there were no Jews around, but when “the party of the circumcision” came back, Peter ran as far away as possible.
Paul noted this double-standard as blatant hypocrisy, and chastised Peter for it in the presence of all. Peter eventually repented (as he should), but the main question that comes to mind when reading this story is…
Why did Peter sin in the first place?
I’m not surprised that Peter sinned; we all do that, even the people that we think of as heroes in the faith (Rom. 3:23).
What I’m surprised about is the fact that that sin had become so normal to Peter that it took someone like Paul to stand up for him. It’s almost the exact same situation as David and Bathsheba; David remained entrenched in his adultery/murder hybrid for months, until eventually Nathan the prophet had to come and dig him out (2 Samuel 12).
It’s not like Peter and David didn’t know any better. Both of these men were what we would call “spiritual stalwarts” – the ones that, when everyone else seems to falter, they will remain true to God.
And yet, it took someone else opening them up to their sin before they either (a) finally noticed the sin in the first place, or (b) owned up to it enough to repent and ask for forgiveness.
Do you know people like that?
Do you know people who are fantastic individuals and models of the faith, but for whatever reason, allow a sin to run so rampant in their life that it almost feels like they ignore it completely?
Why do they do that?
You could probably list a dozen or more reasons, but in my tiny, pea-sized brain, it’s because they’ve rationalized whatever sin they’re engaged in to the point where they’ve convinced themselves there’s nothing wrong with it.
Maybe David believed that the adultery was only wrong as long as Uriah was still alive, and if he just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, it would all of a sudden be ok!
Maybe Peter decided it was just a good time for him to go to the market and hang out all day when high-ranking Jews came around. He had to go sometime, after all, and if he scheduled it when the Jews weren’t around, he could kill two birds with one stone! Avoid the Jews condemnatory glances, and get his shopping done!
Regardless, a sin is a sin is a sin, and the sad reality is that it doesn’t matter what we call it, God knows both the actions and the true intent behind those actions. He knows why we really skipped services that day. He knows why we really want to watch that show on HBO. And He also knows how you plan to do continue doing so.
Rationalization: a friend to our conscience but an enemy to our soul.
So why do we do it?
Why do we, like Peter and David, rationalize our sins away to the point that we need to be woken up forcefully by others, sometimes resisting what they tell us to the point that we destroy friendships in the process?
Here’s a few thoughts…
Because We Love Our Sin More than We Love God
Let’s face it: the reason we watch that show is because we love it. We love the action, we love the intrigue, we love the storyline and the character development, and hey, if 31 out of 40 episodes just happen to have a full-nude sex scene in it, then that’s just collateral damage (https://www.yellowfinbi.com/blog/2015/03/yfcommunitynews-data-visualization-exposes-nudity-in-game-of-thrones-190418).
Look, nobody’s perfect, I get that. But when we willingly allow ourselves to be exposed to sin by saying “every movie/show/book has something bad in it,” then we’ve rationalized what we want by saying the other parts don’t affect us.
That’s called pride, or as the Greeks would call it, hubris.
It’s a false sense of security, a boastful sense of your own holiness that claims it is impervious to the onslaught of the devil.
The Apostles had it in the upper room with Jesus, every last one of them claiming to stand by Him no matter what, until a few hours later every single one of them fled for the hills in terror (Matthew 26:35).
The Jews had it when they left Egypt and thought that nothing would stop them from reaching Canaan. The records of their deaths in 1 Corinthians 10 prove otherwise.
Simply put, sometimes the reason that we rationalize our sin away is because it’s fun. We wouldn’t sin otherwise, but we love whatever it is that we are doing so much, that we don’t really care that God doesn’t approve. It doesn’t really matter what God thinks because the only thing that matters is that I’M HAVING FUN.
What a sinful (and realistic) attitude we have sometimes.
We would never admit that, of course, but that’s really what we’re thinking.
We would much rather disguise our sin through other means than own up to our own de-prioritization of God.
Once we sin in that context, as a willful dismissal of God’s will in favor our own, then we can begin to own up to it.
Until then, we’ll rationalize it away all the live-long day.
You’ve Conveniently Forgotten What Sin Looks Like
Isn’t that handy! This is the typical discussion we have with ourselves, “Is this wrong? I don’t know. I feel like it might be, but at the same time, it’s not as bad as this, so I just…I just don’t know.”
Then, while we “study” to see if it really is a sin, we continually engage in that sin.
Because hey, it’s not really a sin unless we know for sure it’s a sin, right? The whole “without the Law, there can be no sin” thing (Romans 7:7)?
First off, that’s a misapplication of that verse. Secondly, it’s just patently not true.
If we have any concept of what sin is in the first place, we are commanded not to engage in it. Period. End of story.
Furthermore, the fact that we’re questioning whether or not something is sinful in the first place means that we’ve gone so far past the line that we don’t even recognize it anymore.
If that’s the case, then we have become like Jerusalem during her first downfall: we have “forgotten how to blush.” (Jeremiah 6:15).
The first thing to do when this happens is to stick your nose back in the Bible and draw closer to God. Then, reevaluate your actions to see if they line up with where we should be. If not, then you know what the correct action is: repent, and ask for forgiveness.
You’re Convinced There Will Be Time Later For You to Repent
This premise is built on two faulty strands of logic: (a) there will be a “later”, and (b) you will actually later repent. One of the most intriguing arguments against the latter is found in Acts 26, when Agrippa is aaaalmost persuaded to be a Christian, then refuses to acquiesce.
Did he ever repent? The Scriptures are silent on the matter, but all signs point to: probably not.
One of the most chilling sequences in Scripture is found within a Bible story that we tell our children some nights to (ironically) help them sleep better: Noah’s Ark.
In case you’re unfamiliar with the story, God is displeased (to put it mildly) with the state of mankind’s faithfulness, so He decides to annihilate the world by way of a global flood, with the exception of one man: Noah. Noah is the only one that God deems as righteous, and so through faithfully building the ark according to God’s specifications, he is able to preserve himself and his family.
It’s a great story, until you start to think about the people on the outside.
Have you ever stopped to think about what Noah and his family heard on the inside of the ark as the rains came down and the floodwaters began to rise?
Did you ever consider that Noah and his family most likely had to endure the sounds of people banging on the ark, desperately screaming and pleading to be let in?
Did you ever realize that Noah most likely considered the fate of people that he knew, and maybe even were friends with?
What an agonizing story if we consider the situation from Noah’s perspective. And yet, that’s exactly what the Scriptures say happened:
“For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and they did not understand until the flood came and took them all away; so will the coming of the Son of Man be.” (Matthew 24:38-39).
The one ironclad we have in Scripture concerning Judgment Day is that you and I will not be able to see it coming.
So what makes you so sure you’ll have time to repent in the future?
You Secretly Think God’s Forgiven You Already Because of How Awesome You Are
Are you an elder or a deacon faithfully serving the congregation for many years? Hard-working preacher that has converted thousands? New convert to Christ that endured years of persecution and alienation from the people you loved the most to come to Christ? Active member of a congregation that is always wanting to work and always seeking to serve others?
All of you deserve to be commended.
But just because you have a fantastic track record, do not let that, for one second, convince you that you can escape God’s eye on the sin that you’ve so conveniently ignored.
Maybe it’s because we’re humans, maybe it’s because most of us are naturally competitive in some way, but we tend to view salvation as a sort of balance: if I can have more good jelly beans than bad jelly beans, then God will let me into Heaven.
Ok, it may not be jelly beans, but the belief is just as ridiculous without it.
That’s not how God works and that’s not how salvation works.
People will try it though. Rest assured that on Judgment Day there will be people waltzing up to God and claiming admittance to Heaven based on all the great and wonderful things they did (Matthew 7:21-23).
There is nothing you and I can ever do to earn our salvation, and if that much is true, then there is no amount of good works or great ideas or whatever else that can blot out a persistent and disobedient sin in our lives.
It may seem unfair, but the reality is that God does not care about thousands of sacrifices more than he cares about an obedient heart to Him.
If you want to be well-pleasing to Him, put the sin that “so easily entangles you” to the side, and stop rationalizing sin.
The unfortunate side to all of this is that it sometimes takes a blunt wake-up call to make us aware of our sins. I know I hate it, and before you start to think that this is some hypocritical denouncement of everyone else in some twisted holier-than-thou blog, know that the reason for this article in the first place is because someone approached me about a sin that I was too stubborn to see.
Sometimes we need people to be blunt to us. I did, and you might too.
So here’s yours:
Stop rationalizing your sin.Last modified: January 22, 2019