When It’s Okay To Sin

At work this week, I interviewed a man who was leaving the Army for a disciplinary infraction. I’ve learned the art of asking questions in a flat tone to allow the interviewee to believe I won’t be alarmed by any response. In this manner, I quickly learned the man was being discharged for choking his girlfriend.

He explained the situation, that she had been punching him first. Although this was clearly abuse, I verbally gave him the benefit of the doubt to learn more, knowing some girls can be scrappy and put a hurting on a guy. Perhaps it was self-defense? Hardly, he shook his head and smirked, blowing off the fact that she could’ve hurt him, even if she tried.

But he held his actions were justified. It was okay to choke his girlfriend because of what she did.

I laid it out, the fact that he had the biological advantage over her in strength, and he said he wasn’t concerned for his safety anyway. That choking is used to kill or threaten to kill – it’s a fight-ender. And that no matter what she did, it did not justify choking her.

I told him plainly that whatever he justified now, he would justify in the future. If he was comfortable with choking a girl who was hitting him, he would do nothing to prevent the situation happening in the future. However, if he felt appropriate remorse and owned his bad behavior, he might be able to see similar scenarios coming and avoid them.

Who is in the right? Wrong question. [Click photo for credit.]

He appeased me some by calling his actions “wrong”, but wanted to be sure I recognized her actions as wrong too. And then he returned to calling his choking attempt “justified”.

It didn’t help that, when he explained the situation to his girlfriend’s family, they told her she deserved to be choked for having punched him several times.

Yes, this is the world we live in. An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, getting choked for throwing punches.

At some point, we tell ourselves, My sin is justified.

Because he did this, because she said that, because they reacted this way and called me this, I had the right.

We tell ourselves: it was okay for me to lie. It was okay for me to choke my girlfriend or yell at my child or cheat on my husband. I wouldn’t have done it if they hadn’t provoked me.

It’s their fault for setting up the situation in which I sinned. It’s justifiable.

I’m here to remind us all: No. No, it’s not. Lying and stealing and cheating and hitting and ignoring and fighting are not justifiable. We do not ever get the right to respond to evil with evil.

Why? Because grace is too powerful. Because the Spirit of God who lived inside Jesus and enabled him to respond to violence and accusation with outrageous grace, compassion and peace also lives inside of us.

The presence of God’s spirit, living on our insides, strips us of excuses.

This pains me to say this as much as it pains you to hear it. But it needs to be said:

No one can make you sin. It will always be a choice. And the choice will always be yours.

Let me give my caveat, since I know you are worried: I am not talking about self-defense, please know that. If someone breaks into my house, I am going to do what I need to do to keep my family safe and get the intruder out. If someone is being hit or abused in a relationship, they have the right to protect and defend themselves and any children involved. And if I had been alive in Nazi Germany, I hope to God I would’ve been willing to protect friends or family who were black or Jewish and lie on their behalf if interrogated. These situations are not someone blaming another person for their wrong behavior – they are self-protective. We know in our hearts what the difference is.

So with that said, are you blaming others for your reactions and behavior? Well, stop it.

You can’t become who you want to be if your every action is determined my someone else. 

Set your own course. Take responsibility for your own thoughts, words and actions. This path takes courage, but it is the only way to take real control of your life.

{Live brave and dream along with me. Click here to subscribe to the blog for free updates and a first copy of my book, Dream or Die, at its release early next year. And stay connected on Facebook or Twitter.}