Respectable Sins: Lacking Forgiveness

Respectable Sins: Lacking Forgiveness

As previously noted this week’s sermon emerged after reading Dr. Jerry Bridges’ book, Respectable Sins. He relates a distressing story on the effect of a critical spirit. It was shared with him through a mutual friend.

This person had been raised in an upper-class Christian home with a hypercritical father. The middle child of the family, a daughter, bore the brunt of his criticism to the point of being convinced that she was incapable of doing anything correctly.  The more that the father pointed out her poor posture, the more she slumped.  He berated her for not making eye contact, still she developed a constant downward gaze. Sadly, he claimed it was all for her own good.

The daughter processed this criticism from her father not as love but as rejection.  As soon as she was able, she sought out companions who would provide her with acceptance, at any cost.

Upon his deathbed the dying father tearfully repented, however, it was too late. Too late to repair the relationship. Too late to reverse the consequences of his personal sin in the life of his daughter.  She had become promiscuous and addicted to crack cocaine in her quest for affirmation.

Maybe your words have never cut anyone quite as deeply as that example. Maybe they have remained silently stored up in your thoughts. Yet you know they have been used by the enemy to build up a wall of isolation between you and those closest to you.

One surefire remedy to affect release from this critical spirit is found in 1 Corinthians 13:5. There, Paul expounds upon the attributes of love, one of which is refusing to keep a record of wrongs.  If we’re operating in love, a fruit of the Spirit, we will not fulfill the lusts of the flesh (Galatians 5:16). (Notice that Paul sharply contrasts walking in love with its opposite in verse 15, “bite and devour each other.”)

As blood-bought, born-from-above believers in the risen Christ, it is essential for us to examine all that we have been delivered from, our sinfulness. So how willing am I to forgive, releasing someone else’s offense over to God? Jesus addressed this issue head-on in Matthew 18:21-35. The parable of the unforgiving servant is Jesus’ answer to Peter’s question, “Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him?  As many as seven times?”  Jesus kicks things up with his response in verse 22, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy-seven times.”

Do you think this is only for the benefit of the offender? Or does it set us free as well?

The Critic

A little seed lay on the ground,

And soon began to sprout,

“ Now, which of all the flowers around,”

It mused, “ shall I come out?

The lily’s face is fair and proud,

But just a little cold,.

The rose, I think, is rather loud,

And then, its fashion’s old.

The violet is all very well,

But not a flower I’d choose,

Nor yet the Canterbury bell-

I never cared for blues,”

And so it criticized each flower,

This supercilious seed,

Until it woke one summer morn,

And found itself–a weed.


To consider …

  • Is there any unforgiveness that has settled into my own heart that I need to release to God?
  • Have I been overly critical with those closest to me? If so, am I ready to humbly ask for their forgiveness?
  • If I’m not ready, what is keeping me back?
  • Do I need to employ 1 John 1:9, confessing and receiving forgiveness from God before I can proceed with man?


  1. Kathryn Boisvert : April 10, 2018 at 6:19 am

    I relate to that daughter. I was that daughter except it was my mother that criticized me every single day for numerous things. My spirit was so broken. 😕 I believed I was completely acceptable. It wasn’t until I met Jesus at the age of 20 then He healed me delivered me. Therefore I have to fight the sin of that generation because it tends to come into my brain where I start t criticize the the Holy Spirit catches me on it. I’m a work in progress

  2. Important message illustrated with a beautiful poem. Thanks Pastor Dave!

  3. One closely related stronghold to that unforgiveness, which the enemy has been effective in sowing even among His people, is having a critical spirit. Even becoming a Christian did not erase this distasteful behavior in me instantaneously. Like Kathryn, I experienced daily pressure to, ” do better ” or risk not gaining the much desired approval of my earthly parent. Decades later, I still struggle to reject the urge to seek approval. Furthermore, I resent the people who won’t give it. Jesus has made me 100% accepted, yet unhealthy patterns persist. Reality check: I find peace and forgiveness big enough to share only at the foot of the cross, looking unto ” Him who is able to keep you (me) from stumbling and present you (me) blameless”.

  4. What took me many years to realize is that refusing to forgive, holding anger and resentment inside of you is a poison that hurts the offended more than the offender, the offender most likely does not even remember the incident. Granting forgiveness is a fortuitous event for both parties involved. Some day all we imperfect creatures will require forgiveness from another.

  5. And then it still all goes back to pride. Being offended that I am not as perfect as I think I am. My family not being as perfect as I think they should be therefore I’m a bad mother or wife. My church or my country or my neighbors not as perfect as they should be if they are MY church, country, or neighbors. I guess it’s up to me to fix everybody. Theoretically it’s okay not to be perfect…

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