Relating to Sinners

It’s a good thing that sports fans don’t have to be expert players in their respective leagues, in order to root for a team.  Imagine the devastating financial impact on organized sports if they could only sell tickets to former players.  Conveniently for them, they can make money from anyone, ranging from an actual player of the sport, to those with no real knowledge of the rules of the game.  Otherwise, there would be little reason for professional athletes to practice and become good at something, competing at a higher level than the vast majority of their fans.

While preparing a lesson for a Sunday class the other day, I encountered this line from the commentary1:

“One does not have to sin to relate to sinners”

This statement was included in the commentary on Hebrews 2:18:

Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.
Hebrews 2:18 NIV

However, while the lesson was talking about Jesus’ ability to relate to sinners (even though He never sinned), it occurred to me: Doesn’t this general principle apply to us, as well?

Of course, we can’t claim that we have lived a sinless life like Jesus did.  However, just as Jesus experienced temptation and lived in a sinful world, but did not sin; so we can reach out to those who sin differently from us.  We may not be able to relate to their particular sin (perhaps one that we are not particularly vulnerable to) but we can relate to temptation and to living in a world scarred by the consequences of sin.  And, we can relate to the shame of sin and the need for a Savior.

This can be challenging, though.  There are certainly those who sin in ways that correspond to our own weaknesses.  Once we overcome specific challenges in our own lives, we have the opportunity to strengthen others who need to find a way out.  However, depending on how fresh our own wound is, there are situations where we may need to sit out (so as not to harm ourselves or others), or refer to others for help.

On the other hand, there are those who sin in ways that we are relatively “immune” to.  We might just not have a desire to engage in a certain behavior, or even feel uncomfortable being around those who do.  Here, we should still be open to God’s calling: He may ask us to step into a world of people that need to be rescued, knowing that we can remain strong when they struggle.  (Of course, we must continue to keep our defenses up, lest we be pulled into sinning ourselves.)  And, while not the primary reason for our support of others, sometimes they are able to return the favor when our weaknesses push back on us.

This isn’t meant to be prescriptive.  I’m not telling you that you have to go to the local [venue of whatever sin you think about when you read this article] today and just start preaching on an arbitrary subject (although God may call you to something similarly out-of-the-ordinary).  However, just as Jesus reached out to sinners, may we be willing to befriend those who need to find His love, peace, joy, and salvation.

Let us reach out to those whose sins don’t make sense to us, both to share Jesus’ love for them that He has given to us, and perhaps to receive support from them on sins we struggle with (where they do not)!


Scripture taken from the Holy Bible, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.


  1. “Standard Lesson Commentary, New International Version”, Volume 24, p.334.  Standard Publishing, Colorado Springs, (c) 2017. 

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