Abraham and Habitual Sin

Abraham sends away Hagar and Ishmael by Giovanni Francesco Barbieri 1657

Abraham sends away Hagar and Ishmael by Giovanni Francesco Barbieri 1657

A little while ago a friend of mine in ministry did something wrong – he sinned! The church he was working for asked him to step down from ministry and go find another job. I was sad for my friend that he had made a mistake, but more so for the church’s reaction. I wonder sometimes if people are too quick to come down ‘harsh on sin’.

Let’s consider Abraham. Twice (Gen 12:11-20, Gen 20) he lies about his wife Sarah. Twice Sarah is taken by a king. Twice Abraham is enriched by the king. Twice God intervenes to save the marriage. In these two stories, Abraham gets rich by lying about his wife. Was it a habitual sin?

I don’t think the lesson of the story is God wants us to lie to get rich! However, it does seem that God still shows his support and care for Abraham through bringing blessings out of his failures. It doesn’t seem like God is shaming Abraham. It doesn’t seem like God is undermining Abraham.

Now I know there are times where God is very strict with sin, in the Old and New Testaments. And sin is a serious problem. However it does make me wonder who much grace, care and support I give to people, whether in ministry or not, who struggle with a particular sin like Abraham did. Do I want to get rid of people who fall? Do I shame them? How does God want me to treat people who ‘fall’?

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18 thoughts on “Abraham and Habitual Sin

  1. The Lord recently invited us to follow Him to a different church in our area. Their motto is “We love – We make disciples.”

    Immediately after completing a course on discipleship/mentoring, the Lord brought to us a man who is in the midst of an ugly separation. Because everyone believed the woman’s allegations, no one from our former church would even give him a bed to sleep in. I’ve known the guy for several years and his surly, know-it-all behavior was such that I was in the crowd that believed his wife. ;(

    The Lord asked us to let him stay with us, with the understanding that we were not to judge, condemn, “fix”, or otherwise get involved. Our job was to love him. Period. Our only input was to be, “What do you sense the Lord is saying to you about (whatever the current matter was).”

    It has been a great challenge, but one that I’m thankful we accepted. It turns out that his demeanor was due to being maligned – and harshly judged by his Christian brothers and sisters. All of her allegations are proving to be blatant lies. There is not one shred of evidence…even from their kids – to support her case.

    In the meantime, we’ve been given the honor of loving this guy and watching the amazing, transforming power of love. You may be on to something here!.

    I’ll bet those leaders who gossiped among themselves in your friend’s church weren’t asked to step down. Interesting how that works out, isn’t it?

    We are so quick to judge by behavior. The Lord looks at our heart. Oh that we would learn to go and do likewise!

    Thanks for your timely article.

    In Him,
    \o/
    Praising Jesus – who knows my heart and loves me anyway!

  2. These are excellent questions, Nate. Ones which we all need to meditate on. We are so quick to point fingers, yet we need to slow our roll long enough to take a different approach. When a brother or sister sins, the first thing we need to do is make a habit of looking into our own hearts. We need to first study our own behavior. We need to lift our eye from the microscope of judgment long enough to remove the log blocking our view out of the eye of grace and mercy.

  3. It seems the first question would be if the sin would be one that disqualified him based upon Paul’s words to Timothy. Even were it one of these sins restoration could have been pursued. God heaps grace upon grace for us all. Ministers are included. Thanks for the good post and the thought of it!!!

  4. We can never go wrong extending grace. Who among us is without sin? On the other hand, those in leadership who do ‘disqualify’ themselves should resign. God can always open the door through restoration (as Levi mentioned). But love and grace are often the tools God uses to bring a sinner back into fellowship among the Body of Christ.

  5. What we need to remember Nathan is that Abraham and other Old Testament Saints did not have the indwelling of The Holy Spirit, this did not come till after Pentecost but yes he had the Spirit working in his life as we all do until we are Born again and no longer sin we see this in the Scripture below, to say we go on sinning till we die but we are are forgiven is not confirmed in Scripture the opposite is confirmed and to say we do go on sinning is disobedience (Romans 6:11)

    John 3:9 No one who is born of God will continue to sin, because God’s seed remains in him; he “cannot ” go on sinning, because he has been Born of God.

    1John 5:18-20 We know that no one who is Born of God sins; but He who was Born of God keeps him, and the evil one does not touch him.

    John 8:34-36 Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave to sin. Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.

    1 John 3:2 -7 Whosoever abideth in Him sinneth not: whosoever sinneth hath not seen Him, neither known Him. Little children, let no man deceive you: he that doeth righteousness is righteous, even as He is righteous.

    It is God who tells us to rebuke and warn those in the Church who sin and we will do this if we Love them, who wants to see someone in Satan’s Trap, we don’t accept sin in ourselves or anyone else, to do so is apathy or fear of rejection or because we don’t know God’s Truth or because we don’t Love and care about those in the body of Christ. We need to realice too that if a man can’t keep his own life in order how can he teach others how to do this in the Church.

    1 John 2:4-6 He that saith, I know Him, and keepeth not His Commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But whoso keepeth His word, in him verily is the Love of God perfected: hereby know we that we are in Him. He that saith he abideth in Him ought himself also so to walk, even as He walked.

    We are to put our flesh to death so we don’t sin, what is needed is for those who seek to know God, is to stop trusting in their own understanding or others and believe what God tells us in the Scriptures and to ask for The Holy Spirit (Luke11:13) and God’s wisdom (James 1:5-6) instead of walking around in darkness and being deceived and deceiving others.

    Romans 8 :12-15 Therefore, brothers, we have an obligation—but it is not to the sinful nature, to live according to it. or if you live according to the sinful nature, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live, because those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.

    Galatians 24 -26 And they that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts. if we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit. Let us not be desirous of vain glory, provoking one another, envying one another.

    Christian Love from us both – Anne.

  6. I feel sorry for this former pastor. He has given into sin and lost the place that God has ordained for him to live. What will become of his life now? I am praying that someone will have compassion and mercy on him. I hope that someone will take the time to minister to his needs as a brother in need of deliverance, hope and healing. I believe it was Paul that said we should not leave the soul in separation from the body of believers, but to seek to help him be restored. Who will enter his life and work with him leading him to restoration? He is to remain in this sinful condition never to feel the love of God again? I hope not.

    • Don’t fret! God is gracious and he is doing well! Although, for me, the church now misses a great minister and more importantly missed and opportunity to show real restoration at work.

  7. good read…..people most often forget that forgiveness is intertwined with grace…….how could a church be teaching grace and forgiveness (hopefully they do) and then turn someone away? What if God had turned away men like Moses, David, and others who sinned? I agree with you..God can, and does, turn our sin into good….so glad he is doing well-perhaps God is leading him in a different direction from his mistake?

    • Yes he is and thanks for commenting. I think the biggest issue for me is the example it sets. ‘Punishing’ people when caught in sin, doesn’t encourage people to come forward. This is ESPECIALLY true of those in ministry, who know that coming forward about a sin will mean they lose their livelihood. It seems to discourage openess.

      • agreed…..great example of this is the Catholic Church…..is this man still in ministry? If he is and he has confessed and repented…I think I would choose him as a pastor over many others who never seem to make any mistakes…. Jim Falwell comes to mind…..

  8. These are very good questions you have asked, Nate. Jesus had great compassion for sinners. Here are some thoughts:
    God looks on the heart while man cannot and make mistakes.
    Discipline isn’t a bad thing when we err and hopefully leads to repentance, recovery and restoration.
    Paul had an habitual sin or he could never have written Romans 7. Was that his thorn in the flesh?

  9. I’m not sure that there is a cut and dry answer without more information (not that I am asking for it). I think that we may be too quick to come down on someone for sin in their lives, but I’m not sure that forgiveness and restoration to ministry always go hand in hand. If someone has been called to shepherd a congregation, and the sin in his life has either tarnished his reputation to the outsIde world, or betrayed the trust of the congregation, I would question whether even in repentence they are qualified to be restored, at least immediately. I think that even beyond the matter of repentence from the sin, time should be given to get his house in order and even analyze whether he even thinks that he is still qualified to continue. I don’t know whether any of this applies to your friend, but I don’t think, in general, that it is a cut and dry issue.

    • Thanks for your comment. It can be a difficult topic but I feel that many times we are very quick to appear to be ‘tough on sin’, rather than focus on restoration, which I believe is the point of Jesus’ death.

      • I just think that restoration to fellowship, and restoration to “leadership” are probably two different things. We can forgive people from their sins, but the consequences of the same still linger out there. Even in extreme cases where say a pastor has been found to be abusing children, I think that man can be restored to a fellowship with believers, but it doesn’t seem wise to trust that man in a leadership position any longer. That wouldn’t be harboring unforgiveness or punishing sin nearly as much as it would be to allow the natural consequences of his actions play out.

        Again, this may not apply to your friend, but it is a nuanced issue that doesn’t have a simple answer.

  10. Interesting thoughts. Sometimes you have to wonder at some of the “stunts” pulled by Biblical heroes. But in the final analysis, God’s Love is infinite, ours only finite. Next stop? To forgive those who cannot seem to do so… I’m sure it’s not an easy decision for the folks in that church. (Also thanks for stopping by my blog.)

    • It was a pleasure to visit your blog – thanks for stopping by mine. It is a good contrast, God’s love vs ours. It is the challenge to be perfect like he is, but something we all short fall of.

  11. Good questions. Thanks for stopping by my blog. Jesus said that the most important commandments were to love God with everything we are and to love others as ourselves. Too many of us seem to focus on seeing if others are following the “rules” that we think are right instead of loving God’s way. Blessings, Tricia

Thanks for reading. What do you think? Do these questions relate to you? How?

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