Monday, October 05, 2015

A Thought for Monday 5 October 2015

“If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.  If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.  If we say we have not sinned, we make Him a liar and His word is not in us.”  1 John 1:8-10 NKJV

We have to be aware of the presence of sin in our lives, but we should not convince ourselves that every little thing is sinful and that this God simply cannot be pleased.  But there is another, often overlooked part of this passage that may require more attention.  “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive …”  What is “just” about committing sin and being given a pass?  If there is to be real justice, would it not be “just” that a wrong would have to be made right?  That Jesus paid the price for sin is not in question.  What is highly questionable is how we have chosen to interpret that doctrine to serve our own purposes. 

Jesus’ death on the cross cannot be said to have removed our need to understand justice and our part in it because sin must be understood not as an insult to The Lord alone; sin very nearly always involves harm to someone else.  Someone we harmed physically as well as emotionally – deliberately striking or gossiping.  Someone we harmed inadvertently by our neglect and inward focus on “me only”; self-indulgence and gluttony when we know there are hungry children.  Justice in the objective sense, then, requires that if someone is harmed or hurting through no fault of their own, they become entitled.  They are owed something especially if they were harmed because of a) our evil intentions, or b) our deliberate neglect (that is, never giving a mind to someone else, thinking only of self). 

None of this is to say The Lord cannot or will not forgive our neglect or our deliberate designs on harm in our irrational anger when we act before we think.  We should understand, however, that before it can be said to be “just”, the wrong has to be corrected – by us.  When St. John the Baptizer was speaking of “bearing fruit worthy of repentance”, making right our wrongs done to others was precisely what he was referring to.  That is, prove to The Lord and to our neighbors that we really are sorry enough to make up for what we did.  Too often we think of “repentance” as strictly apologizing to The Lord, but apologizing is only a small component of the whole process of “turning about”, choosing a whole new direction, a whole new way of living.  Part of the process of repentance is not only the apology we must make to The Lord as in a prayer of confession; we must also be prepared to correct what we have done wrong and, if necessary, pay a civil price as in paying a fine or serving time in jail.

Sin has consequences – not only spiritually but socially.  When we use Jesus’ death on the Cross as our excuse for refusing to make right our wrongs, we “make Him a liar, and His word is not in us”.  It is a huge mistake to become convinced that sin magically bounces off us or that the Cross has provided some magic “force field” that prevents sin from penetrating our hearts.  We still have an active spiritual and social role, as in “you must love your neighbor as yourself”.  See?  Our responsibility to one another has not in any way been removed or altered by the Cross, and no one is so “personally” saved that they need not concern themselves with the well-being of one’s neighbor.

So if we “confess our sins” with earnest sorrow, The Lord is “faithful” to forgive.  Let us not, however, neglect His demand for justice.  Let us look to The Lord so The Lord may show us what is required of us so true justice may be served.



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