There are two destructive heresies that are manifested in the Church concerning sin. The first of these is antinomianism. It disregards sin’s destructiveness, at times even normalizing certain sinful behaviors. Jude confronts this heresy in the Church: “For some people, who were designated for this judgment long ago, have come in by stealth; they are ungodly, turning the grace of our God into sensuality and denying Jesus Christ, our only Master and Lord.” (Jude 4, CSB) Disregarding the moral law is a denial of Jesus Christ!
The second heresy regarding moral failure is legalism. The legalist understands his standing with God as the fruit of his own moral action. Jesus told the parable of a tax collector and a Pharisee who went up to the temple to pray: “The Pharisee was standing and praying like this about himself: ‘God, I thank you that I’m not like other people—greedy, unrighteous, adulterers, or even like this tax collector.” (Luke 18:11, CSB) Perhaps the legalist will admit that he is not perfect, but believes himself morally superior to others or achieving a passing score according to his own rubric.
Grace isn’t centered in oneself. While the antinomian refuses to leave sin behind and the legalist depends on himself, grace instead brings new life: “And when you were dead in trespasses and in the uncircumcision of your flesh, he made you alive with him and forgave us all our trespasses.” (Colossians 2:13, CSB) At our baptism we are regenerated by the Holy Spirit who now leads us. We come to more and more take on the likeness of our Lord. Our sanctification begins at baptism and continues throughout our life. This is God’s work of sanctification in which we cooperate and as the Church we facilitate: “Iron sharpens iron, and one person sharpens another.” (Proverbs 27:17, CSB) Grace never disregards sin, but always moves us away from sin and towards the Lord.
Grace defines the life of the Christian; we become participants of it. So, the Christian recognizes that the unsaved cannot be holy without first being born again. We do not expect unbelievers to clean up their act until first they receive Jesus. We do not judge the world; we proclaim the good news out of love. And when sin or heresy is found in a brother or sister, we do not ignore it. We “go tell him his fault” (Matthew 18:15); we speak the truth in love. Why? For the love of our brother or sister. To ignore sin or heresy is the act of an enemy never a friend: “The wounds of a friend are trustworthy, but the kisses of an enemy are excessive.” (Proverbs 27:6, CSB)
Grace cancels sin it doesn’t cancel people! Therefore, go and tell the good news to those who live in darkness. Speak truth in love to those in the Church who in faith or praxis have strayed.