The Difficulties Of Being Honest About Our Sin

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We confess, along with Christians throughout the ages, "For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" (Rom. 3:23). Even from our earliest age, we are sinners (Ps. 51:5; Eph. 2:1). As the Westminster Shorter Catechism 18 announces, "The sinfulness of that estate whereinto man fell, consists in the guilt of Adam's first sin, the want of original righteousness, and the corruption of his whole nature, which is commonly called original sin; together with all actual transgressions which proceed from it."

Confessing, however, that in Adam and in ourselves we are sinners, seems, at least in my limited pastoral experience, to be much easier than confessing and being honest to others about our own particular sins. Despite the somewhat recent host of preachers and teachers suggesting that the gospel frees us to be responsibly transparent about our sin, I still wonder how free some people have actually become.

Having spoken to both pastors and parishioners who are hesitant to reveal their transgressions (e.g., adultery, pornography, anger, etc.), I have concluded that there are numerous reasons why some people have difficulty being honest about their sin. However, before revealing only two reasons, one question that could cross your mind is, "To whom should Christians reveal their sin?" While that is not the scope of this post, let me say, for starters, we should be able to share our present difficulties with our elders. But why don't we? What causes us to harbor our sin? Here are two reasons.

1. Fear

If people knew our marriage was failing; if people knew we look at pornography every other week or at a minimum struggle to resist viewing it; if they knew we committed adultery; if they knew we frequently struggle with anger, what would they think? Would people respond graciously? Would they seek to apply both the law and gospel appropriately, or would we receive a series of, "How could you?", "How dare you?", or "I would never..."? 

There is a sense in which we are concerned about peoples' responses. We are worried and fearful about feeling judged. We are worried and fearful about feeling beaten up. Perhaps we are even fearful about receiving the same harsh treatment from others that we, ourselves, have provided when others' sin became public. Peradventure we do not want people to think less of us. After all, we have maintained a great reputation until now; we do not want that to change. Is the latter fear? Is it pride? Is it both?

2. Pride

Having a good name is a reasonable pursuit (Prov. 22:1), but not at the expense of concealing one's sin (Prov. 28:13). This is particularly difficult for some pastors, pastors that view ordained ministry as a right versus a privilege. In order to resist being deposed, or at a minimum being removed from ministry for a time, some hide their sin, consider repentance strictly a personal matter, and attempt to move on. Unfortunately, in many cases, the particular sin at hand is not usually a one-time promulgation. 

I recall hearing about a pastor who had an adulterous relationship for over ten years. When he was finally confronted, he said that he repented. Yet during that ten years, he never stepped down from ministry nor did he mention his sin to his elders. Was he proud? Was he overly concerned about his reputation? Did he really repent? 

The same can be said about pornographic addiction. If the statistics are even remotely accurate, there are many people in our churches concealing their use of pornography. Why are they not requesting help? Why have they chosen to tackle this matter personally? Is some facet of pride involved?

Both fear and pride are two reasons why Christians secrete their sin. Of course there are other justifications for it as well, but I can only hope and pray that as we continue to grow in holiness as we make use of the ordinary means of grace, obey God's law, and the Spirit's work in us, we will more greatly hate our sin and have an easier time responsibly confessing it to others and seeking help.
Posted June 13, 2014 @ 10:06 AM by Leon Brown

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