There are some sins that are subtle, lurking just beneath the surface, so common in our culture and churches that we are blinded to them and deceived into thinking they are not sins at all. The sins in question are what Jerry Bridges calls Respectable Sins. Respectable sins are sins we overlook and tolerate because they are common subtle sins of believers. Sins like gossip, anger, worry, and frustration, just to name a few, are all respectable sins.
Why Do We Overlook These Sins?
We overlook “respectable sins” not only because they are pervasive, but also because they don't seem as bad as say: Abortion, homosexuality, sex trafficking, and exploiting the poor. Our gossip, worry, and frustrations are insignificant, minor infractions in comparison, so we turn a blind eye and continue to allow them fester.
Another reason "respectable sins" exist is because we don't take seriously God's calling us all to be holy, to live as saints (1 Corinthians 1:2) and shine as lights in a corrupt world (Matthew 5:16). Since we think sainthood is reserved for the super Christian, we see no reason to try and act like one .
What is the Affect of Overlooking these Sins?
When we don't deal with sin, even respectable sins, they start to metastasis like cancer in our Christian community, harming us and taking root in those around us.
Take for instance gossip, a common respectable sin. As a gossiper, I am not only tearing another down, and sinning against God, but I am teaching others gossip is ok. Before you know it, my sin has metastasized in their heart. They start gossiping, then those they gossip to start gossiping. Before you know it, the whole community is gossiping, and no one is willing to deal with the sin, so we all just keep sinning.
How Do We Deal with Respectable Sins?
Like any other sin, we deal with it with the gospel. The gospel teaches us Jesus not only saves us from the wrath of God, but also frees us from sin’s reign over our lives, which allows us for the first time to resist sins dominion over us.
Whereas, before salvation we could not help but sin, after salvation we have the ability to not sin.
In order to keep marching forward against sin, even respectable sins, we must daily preach the gospel to ourselves. Daily reminding ourselves God has already dealt with our sin in Christ should stir in our heart gratitude toward God and a desire to please Him by living as He has called us to live – as saints set apart for His kingdom work.
A Book Recommendation
If you are interested in learning more about what sins we deem respectable and how to deal with each in particular, let me commend to you Jerry Bridges book Respectable Sins. It has been a real source of encouragement in my life, as well as it has opened my eyes to the sins I personally overlook.