So You’ve Been Caught Sinning
Sin is bad. The way we respond to sin is sometimes even worse. The Bible is replete with many big picture examples of how people poorly respond to being caught in sin. The following are some of the worst and best ways we deal with sin.
When we sin against God and others, we have a tendency to hide. After Adam and Eve ate from the forbidden tree, they “hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden” (Gen. 3:8). When God asked Adam why he was hiding, Adam said, “I was afraid, because I was naked, and I hid myself” (Gen. 3:10). Sin separates us from imaging God’s purpose for our lives. Sin leaves us naked or isolated from the covering of God’s direction. When we choose to do other than what God desires, we feel a sense of aloneness, separation or even a nakedness. In this condition, we may feel as if the world is not safe and therefore we must now protect ourselves from further vulnerability; so we hide.
When Adam and Eve sinned against God, they chose to hide from God. They realized that their sin had created distance between them and God. Fearing the consequences of that distance, they hid from their creator. There are many ways we hide from God in response to our own sins: we isolate ourselves from Christian community, we stop reading the word or praying and we fill our lives up with activities that distract us from an awareness of the voice and presence of God. Some of our most destructive behaviors are attempts to hide from the will, voice and presence of God.
When we sin against God and others, we often blame everyone but ourselves. The first groan worthy excuse ever uttered can easily be attributed to Adam. When God asked Adam why he had disobeyed the clear commandment not to eat the forbidden fruit, Adam went straight into blame mode: “The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit of the tree, and I ate.” Translation: I was doing fine on my own and then you had to go and put this woman here with me to mess everything up. This is a far cry from Adam’s earlier confession that the newly created Eve was “at last bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh” (Gen. 2:23). Sadly, Eve’s response to sinning against God isn’t much better. Her excuse is “The serpent deceived me, and I ate” (Gen. 3:13). Within the blame game, Adam blames Eve, Eve blames the serpent and no one takes responsibility.
When caught in sin, humans blame. We blame God for allowing our rebellion to happen and we blame others for not helping us escape the clutches of our own downfall. We blame individuals for leading us astray and we minimize our sins in comparison to the sins of others. In response to our own sins, we sometimes look first to blame everyone but ourselves.
When we sin against God and others we sometimes respond with an attacking or devouring spirit. Cain seems to have murdered Abel because Abel’s offering contrasted Cain’s offering (Gen. 4:1-16). Abel gave God his best. His offering was the choicest meat from the firstborn of his herd. Cain, on the other hand, just brought God an average or even leftover offering. Cain was unwilling to give God his first and best. In response to Cain’s mediocre offering, God warned Cain that if he did not offer his best, sin would devour him. Instead of recognizing God’s correction as helpful discipline, Cain murdered Abel. In murdering Abel, Cain tried to wipe out an expression of righteousness that contrasted his sinfulness. Instead of following the voice of God, Cain killed Abel to completely wipe out Abel’s contrasting righteous expression.
Sometimes humans attack or try to destroy those who contrast their own behaviors. Instead of improving where we fall short, we give negative attention to individuals who contrast our behavior with their good works. Instead of dealing with the plank in our own eye, we tear into those who contrast our sin with their right doing. We belittle those who seem like “do gooders” or appear “too religious.” We harshly criticize religious leaders for what we perceive as their phony piousness or we judge faithful church attenders for what we perceive as their hypocrisies. Instead of repenting of our sin, we attack those who live lives that contrast our wrongdoing.
We Adopt a Lifestyle of Repentance
Besides illustrating the broken ways people respond to sin, the Bible also gives practical answers for addressing the problem of sinning. The Lord’s prayer seems to imply that we will most likely sin on a daily basis. The same prayer that asks for “daily bread” also asks that we are daily forgiven for “our debts, as we also forgive our debtors” (Matt. 6:7-15). The Lord’s prayer and the sacrificial system set up in the Old Testament both point to the need for adopting repentance as a lifestyle. God gave the Israelites the gift of the sacrificial system and the accompanying religious days and celebrations to facilitate an awareness in each of us of our need to repent and acknowledge the grace of God. Throughout the year, the Israelites were supposed to come to the Temple to acknowledge that they had sinned against God and against one another. They were to pray prayers, sing songs and give sacrifices to acknowledge their need for grace from God and grace from one another.
Sadly, many Christians refuse to adopt a lifestyle of repentance. Unwilling to say they are sorry to God or to their friends and family, they live perpetually justifying or ignoring their sins. They hide, they blame and they attack to avoid dealing directly with their rebellion. Christians who fully embraced the freedom of the cross will gladly repent of any sin that is contrary to God’s desire for their lives. Not only will they repent to God, but they will be quick to apologize to others. Christian community is uniquely designed to be a place where people take responsibility for their sins and quickly repent. Repentance is the gift of the cross. We can repent because Christ has provided a way for repentance. Because Christ has made us righteous, we joyfully recognize and repent of anything that contrasts or limits the expression of Christ’s righteousness in us.
We Listen for the Voice of God
If you are human, you will sin against God and against His creation. Regardless, it is important to realize that God does not leave us when we sin. In fact, the good news of the gospel is that nothing can separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus. When we surrender to Christ and welcome the infilling of the Holy Spirit, we have access to eternal relationship with God. This means that we can find the direction of God even when we’ve rebelled against God’s desire for our lives. Although God will not make us behave righteously, He will provide us a way to move forward when we have sinned against Him. Consequently, we must learn to open our ears to the voice of God, even after we have rebelled against his will.
Sin is terrible! Even so, we don’t have to become slaves to sin. Instead, we can choose to repent and listen for the voice of God when we sin. As we listen, we are given the ability to take that next step of faith that leads to a better path and better fruit. Next time you sin, remember that you don’t have to hide, blame, attack or devour. Instead, you can turn to Jesus and follow his restorative path of forgiveness, hope and healing.