Suppose an attractive member of your church walks in on the men’s Bible study one morning and strips off her clothes and then dances in a very sexual manner. Is she responsible if men lust after her? What if some men do not lust? If some lust but some do not, then is the lust-responsibility now only in those men who are lusting and not in her?
You know the great thing about that hypothetical: it’ll never happen! But it’s an interesting thought exercise. Where does the sin responsibility sit: in the tempter or the tempted? I think they are both completely responsible, but only for their own sin.
Here’s how I work through the logic: The tempter is sinning by attempting to get someone to sin, and the tempted who gives in sins in that acquiescence. But if there is a tempter who is unsuccessful in getting the tempted to give in, the tempter’s sin is exactly the same as if the tempted person had given in.
That means that the tempter’s sin is not dependent on the response of the tempted person at all; it remains the same whether the tempted person gives in or not.
And the corollary to this is that the tempted person who gives in is just as responsible for the sin (lust in the extremely unlikely hypothetical I gave above) whether tempted into it or running headlong without temptation. How does that work? Like this.
Suppose a man looks at a woman dressed very modestly by modern standards. If a man looks on her with lust, is the woman a temptress (to use an archaic word)? Few would say so. But his sin is the same as if she were the unclad woman in the original hypothetical. Even without a temptress, he has engaged in that same sin.
So the responsibility for lust resides in the luster, while the responsibility for tempting is in the tempter. Each is wholly responsible for their own sin, regardless of the other person’s part in the scenario.
Unsuccessful tempters and untempted lusters are as guilty of sin as successful tempters and tempted lusters.
The Good News
Depressed yet? Confused, perhaps? Take heart; as in all situations you find yourself in, Jesus is the answer.
“He himself bore our sins” in his body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; “by his wounds you have been healed.” (1 Peter 2:24.)
Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death. (Romans 8:1-2.)
Jesus bore our sins for us, and he never condemns those who belong to him. And this counts for all sins you’ve ever committed, are committing now, and ever will commit:
When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, having canceled the charge of our legal indebtedness, which stood against us and condemned us; he has taken it away, nailing it to the cross. (Colossians 2:13-14.)
Nothing you will ever do can change that, because everything that needs doing Jesus has already done.