Sin is everywhere in the modern world. It is infectious. From advertising and the media to the relationships many people are cultivating. There is, however, a nine-lane highway for sin that is not often discussed: the nine ways in which we can participate in other people’s sins.
The first is by counsel. If one were to talk someone into committing some sin, that counselor would be culpable. This is somewhat obvious since, if one were to counsel another to do the sin, it stands to reason that one would approve of the sin. If one did not approve, then why would one counsel someone into committing it? This happened frequently before the housing market collapsed. Advisors would regularly tell people that they could afford properties that they clearly could not. Ignorance is not a sin, but counseling someone into a contract that will clearly bankrupt them is.
The second is by command. If one were to command someone else to do a sin, that is a sin. To me, this puts in my head the film cliché of a general ordering his troops to do something terrible, like murder a bunch of people. But this is more than just a film trope. This can be seen in real world events, such as the dictators who ordered the execution of millions of people, or parents who drive their teenagers to abortion clinics against their will.
The third is by consent. If one were to give permission for someone else to do something sinful, that is a sin. To me this invokes the image of a parent who, though able to stop the son or daughter from committing the popular sins of the time, believes that it is only natural or that “kids will be kids.” Kids will not be “kids.” They should be held to the same standard as adults—the “don’t do that” standard. Will Smith’s wife stated that they have an “open marriage.” Both of them have consented to the other that they could commit adultery. This does not make this not a sin.
The fourth is by provocation. If one were to provoke someone into committing a sin, that is a sin. I know someone who was dared to have sex as part of a line of men having sex with a woman. Basically he was told that he was not really a man if he did not. This is provocation – questioning someone’s manhood if he does not commit a sin. I am pleased that the individual not only refused to participate, but tried to get the other men not to participate as well.
The fifth is by praise or flattery. If one were to praise a person for sinning, that would be a sin. Whoopi Goldberg says that people ought to revere women who have made the decision to have an abortion. This is the same as praising someone who has committed a murder. Should we also praise school shooters? How about Jeffrey Dahmer? That would not make a whole lot of sense.
The sixth is by concealment. If one were to conceal (or lie about) the sin of another individual, that would be a sin. If a man were to murder someone and his friend helped him hide the evidence that would be a sin. It is not simply about the lying, which is, in and of itself, a sin, but it is being complicit in the other person’s sin.
The seventh is by partaking. To me this invokes the image of a man and woman who are in the throes of physical affection to which they both say yes, though they are not married. Both of them would be culpable not only for their own sin, but also for the sin of the other.
The eighth is by silence. If one were to see someone commit a sin, and let the other person go on believing that the sin is perfectly fine, that is a sin. The percentage of professing Christians who think so-called gay marriage is acceptable is stunning. But the larger group of Christians allowing this abomination are doing so because of their silence. The same is true of abortion. If every Christian stood outside an abortion clinic for an hour a week to talk to the women going in, we would see a steep decline in abortions immediately. But their silence is deafening.
The ninth is by defense of the ill done. If one were to defend the sin by saying that there were good reasons for it that would be a sin. Humans are inherently complicated creatures and there may have been many good excuses for the sin, but, at the end of the day, sin is sin. My father likes to talk about how adolescents justify their sins, “But I had to. What else could I do?” They defend their sins as if they were under siege and had no other choice. But this is almost never true. In the same way pro-lifers sometimes talk about women being forced into abortions. But they are talking about stress, not coercion. And defending the decision as if it were defensible is a sin in and of itself.
Unfortunately, we live in a world that celebrates many types of sin. The wounds of this can be seen everywhere. We not only must be mindful of our own sins, but of the ways we can inadvertently or overtly encourage others to sin as well.