Respectable Sins - Confronting the Sins We Tolerate

Respectable Sins
by Jerry Bridges

Every now and then you come across a book that sticks out. This book stuck out firstly because of its unusual, even funny, title: Respectable Sins. Are there such sins as respectable sins? Surely not!

The sub-title clears it up somewhat: Confronting sins we tolerate.
Even this, however, bristles the senses. We do not tolerate sins, we hate them, and we fight against them. Throw the book into the bargain box, perhaps someone will use it to level out the work bench in the shed.

Well, if anything, the title, as good titles should, made us curious.
On the very first page there are a number of commendations, such as the one by JI Packer:

“If we are not humbled into repentance by Bridge’s diagnosis of things that are wrong with us, then something is indeed wrong with us, and badly so. Read this book – we need to – and be ready for the gentle surgeon’s knife.”

That gets you to read - and indeed to experience the scalpel.

 In the Preface the author Jerry Bridges tells us that this book is not about the obvious sins of our culture, but about the subtle sins of believers.

That cuts ice. We are so quick to speak about the decline of society, the sins of abortion, drug use, sexual perversion, murder, theft, fraud, filthy talk, etc, etc. We are also so quick to admit that we are all sinful and in need of forgiveness. Overall, however, we are better than the people of the world! Wouldn’t you say so?

Of course we have weaknesses. Character faults, yes, we are not perfect, not by any means.

Bridges cuts us off at the knees when he writes about the things we think and do which we so often excuse with smile or smirk as “our human failings and shortcomings”, rather than what they are: our sins. “On the whole”, Bridges writes, “we appear to be more concerned about the sins of society than we are about the sins of the saints. In fact, we often indulge in what I call the “respectable” or even “acceptable” sin.  We gossip easily, we harbour hurts over wrongs long past without any effort to forgive as God has forgiven us.  We are incensed when a practicing homosexual is ordained as bishop, but do we mourn over our own selfishness, our critical spirit, our impatience, our anger?”

“The truth is that all sin is sin.”

And so Bridges tackles the sins that we so often accept within the church as miserable, but no more than that.

He has a chapter on ungodliness (living one’s everyday life with little or no thought about God, His will, His glory, or of one’s dependence on God. In how far do we live as those accountable to God for all our thoughts and actions?

There is a chapter on anxiety and frustration. Do we really think of anxiety as sin?

He then deals with discontentment about any of the circumstances of life, our health, our marriage, our work, or our inability to bear children. Further, chapters about unthankfulness, pride, selfishness, lack of self-control, impatience and irritability, anger, judgmentalism, envy, jealousy and related sins, worldliness’.

Bridges does more than expose us to our sins. He also points to the remedy, to our true repentance and conversion, to the abundant payment of Christ Jesus our Saviour and to the power of the Holy Spirit. With the scalpel comes the balm. The balm, however, is not the quick band-aid, not a telling to see what you can do to lessen the evils, but the cure of God so that we may make real sanctification progress.

As Joni Aereckson Tada wrote, “For the believer seriously considering the Lordship of Christ in his life, Respectable Sins is must reading. “

Review by P. 't Hart