Have you ever done something that seems too bad to admit? Have you ever covered up your mistakes and moved on while silently suffering by thinking about them all day? Have you ever felt that you are seen as too Christian to sin and that your confession will damage your image?
All I have to say is: me too…
As hard as it is to admit, we all sin. Or rather, as I should say, as hard as we pretend we don’t, we still continue in our sin. We don’t want to, but we’re caught in a hole. A slough as John Bunyan put it. We would like to pretend that everything is ok, especially for the people around us who mean the most to us. Funny thing, though: they’re pretending too.
Everyone knows deep down just how little we live up to our own expectations, let alone those of God. Yet we still pretend. We don’t cuss around other people, we don’t make fun of people (to their face at least), we don’t make vulgar comments or jokes, and we don’t steal or lie that much. Of course, there are the little things. We have our white lies, and we have our habits that we keep to ourselves, like a little bit of gluttony or lust that “only affects us.” Those things aren’t too bad, right? We don’t have to tell anyone, we’ll work it out.
Obviously, you know that’s not the case. We don’t get off the hook because we didn’t hit anyone or say “Jesus” in the wrong context. Our religion, in that way, is harming us more than it’s helping us. Instead of becoming loving individuals who make others smile, we become fake righteous saints who hurt ourselves with guilt. We also become hypocrites about other people’s sin. We think that our sin is better because it’s private and internalized. That wasn’t God’s plan! We have it wrong.
Now before you get the wrong idea, no-one will ever stop sinning completely, but we can get better over time. The goal is not to stop sinning, but to come closer to God. God is the ends and the means.
When we’re told all our lives that we have the ability to pray to God directly, that God is our friend, and that our confessions of sin are between us and the almighty, we get some dangerous messages in the subtext.
First of all, we are still accountable to other people, and that’s in and out of the church. You can’t get mad at someone for a dirty joke and just pretend that you don’t look at porn. You can’t avoid someone with tattoos (which was only forbidden in the Old Testament because of its social implications of slavery, and does not damn someone to hell) as if they were some kind of villain when you ignored the homeless person you just passed.
Second, God is forgiving of all of our sins, but he is not our pal. He’s our creator. He is righteous and just to strike you down at any point for blatant disobedience, but he doesn’t because he is merciful. With that said, why are we so nonchalant about our sin? We are disgracing God, our purpose, our creator. We’re more afraid of each other than we are of God. We clear our search history and fake a smile, but don’t repent of our actions and thoughts.
Lastly, our sin won’t stop unless we seek help from others. We need God’s forgiveness, but we need love and forgiveness from our friends and family too. Not acceptance, but forgiveness. The Catholics have it right to talk to a priest in confession. That makes your confession more public and more real. But even if you are a pastor or priest, or if you fear the social backlash of your sin, you need community too.
I’m not condemning anyone who is struggling in sin. I am mainly talking to myself, because there is no person I know better. All I’m saying is that I (and most other Christians) need to deal with sin in a healthy way. Not to manage it, but to acknowledge and be free of it. And when someone comes to you needing to confess something, be like God and forgive them. Anything else would be unchristian.
One thought on “What Do I Do About Sin?”
Thank you for sharing. It reminds me of 1 John 1:9 ” If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness”.