Connivance Topical Study

Preaching and Worship Resources about Connivance

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Connivance is the act of allowing wrongdoing to be covered up or overlooked, whether actively or passively. "Connivance" derives from the Latin coniveo: "to close the eyes, to overlook." While often tied to the idea of conspiracy or collusion, connivance does not necessarily carry secretive overtones. In theological terms, connivance is a useful term, especially for the passive allowance of immoral behavior.

In Scripture

"And if the people of the land should ever close their eyes to them, when they give of their offspring to Molech, and do not put them to death, I myself will set my face against them and against their family, and will cut them off from among their people, them and all who follow them in prostituting themselves to Molech." (Lev. 20:4-5).

Punish His House Forever "For I have told him that I am about to punish his house forever, for the iniquity that he knew, because his sons were blaspheming God, and he did not restrain them" (1 Sam. 3:13). [ ]

Rebuking Peace "Whoever winks the eye causes trouble, but the one who rebukes boldly makes peace" (Prov. 10:10).

You Too "On the day that you stood aside, on the day that strangers carried off his wealth, and foreigners entered his gates and cast lots for Jerusalem, you too were like one of them" (Obad. 11).

Saul "But they covered their ears, and with a loud shout all rushed together against him. Then they dragged him out of the city and began to stone him; and the witnesses laid their coats at the feet of a young man named Saul" (Acts 7:57, 58).

"They know God's decree, that those who practice such things deserve to die — yet they not only do them but even applaud others who practice them" (Rom. 1:32).

Casual Observance In Scripture it is clear that the casual observance of sin is itself a sinful act. Such connivance is seen in families (1 Sam. 3:13), in communities (Lev. 20:4-5), even in international relationships (Obadiah). The Obadiah passage is interesting, in particular, for the ways in which it begins a "slippery slope." The people of Edom first watch the destruction of Jerusalem with glee (11) before marching through the gates of the city for a share of the spoils (13), and then even becoming active agents of the destruction of God's people by capturing fugitives (14). This is to suggest that casual observance of sin may readily lead to more active engagement with the behavior that is contrary to God's will.

Points to Ponder

Not a license for rudeness: While we ought to take seriously the fact that casual observance of sin is not as casual as we may think, this does not give us license to be rude or judgmental in the way that we express our opposition to the sin being committed. Other Scripture passages, such as Jesus' instructions for rebuking a fellow believer (Matt. 18:15-20), or Peter's injunction that we should always speak to the reason for our hope with "gentleness and reverence" (1 Pet. 3:16), should always guide the manner in which we respond to those we observe committing sinful acts.

The universal need for grace: The reminder that the apostle Paul himself casually overlooked the stoning of Stephen (Acts 7:57-58) serves as an important reminder of the depth and breadth of God's grace as we consider our own connivance with sin. Even spiritual heroes like Paul condoned sin by their actions. All our sin, including our participation in broader systems of oppression or passive observance of sinful behavior, can be forgiven by the grace of Jesus Christ.

The universality of our connivance with sin: One of the reasons we need to be reminded of our universal need for grace is our total inability to avoid conniving in sin. While it may be easy to name the sins in others, it is difficult to recognize our own complicity in sin (Matt. 7:3-5). Even if we ourselves do not commit certain sins, we nevertheless participate in broader systems that cause harm. The clothes we wear may involve the employment of children in unsafe working conditions, the food that we eat may be grown irresponsibly, or we may benefit from decades of racial inequality. We can never escape the corrupting effects of sin, and so no choice we make can be completely free from connivance in sin.

The need for wisdom: The pervasiveness of our connivance with sin requires that we seek wisdom and discernment for our decision-making. We may be unable to dedicate the time necessary to researching the labor practices of every item we purchase. Putting food on the table to feed our families (or the needy families in our community) may take precedence over buying food produced in the most sustainable fashion. The attempt to avoid connivance in sin quickly turns into graceless legalism. Seeking God's wisdom and resting in God's grace for those areas where wisdom fails us frees us up to pursue the whole Christian life lived in the presence of God without falling into the trap of lifeless legalism.

John Donne: "This sin is heavy in the seed, in the grain, in the acorn, how much more when it is a field of corn, a barn of grain, a forest of oaks, in the multiplication, and complication of sin in sin? And yet we consider sin another way too, for as Christ feels all the afflictions of his children, so his children will feel all the wounds that are inflicted upon him; even the sins of other men; as Lot's righteous soul was grieved with sins of others. If others sin by my example and provocation, or by my connivance and permission, when I have authority, their sin lies heavier upon me than upon themselves; for they have but the weight of their own sin; and I have mine, and theirs upon me."

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Scripture quotations are from New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright 1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.