A person or church that covers up or ignores abuse often has a pattern of allowing other, smaller sins to go unchecked. Nobody wakes up one morning and thinks, I feel like blackballing a congregant today, or Molestation isn’t that big of a deal. Rather, subtle sins are layered upon each other to callous the heart and pave the way. As God said to Cain, “If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must rule over it” (Gen. 4:7).
Note how he says, “if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching.” There are smaller wrongdoings that precede greater wrongdoings, and a process of corruption that we can either resist or help.
In my work with church leaders and abuse victims, I’ve noted patterns of sin that precede almost every crisis. Had someone repented sooner, nipped sin in the bud, or held colleagues accountable, most abusive situations could be handled responsibly in a God-honoring way, rather than escalated or exacerbated.
Here are six sins that—by themselves—are common, garden-variety problems but have led many to remain silent in the face of evil. They may also serve as “gateway sins,” enabling the sinner to move into more serious sins. As the Westminster Shorter Catechism puts it, “Some sins in themselves, and by reason of several aggravations, are more heinous in the sight of God than others.” My hope is that if we can recognize smaller sins before they take root, we can do what is right and give no foothold to the Devil (Eph. 4:27).