If they have sinned, they will be forgiven. Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.
I realize it probably sounds awful to speak of anything promising about sin. After all, sin is a truly pernicious and destructive aspect of our experience in this broken world. Sinful choices break up families and do damage to vulnerable people. And Sin is a cosmic force that has entered creation with human rebellion and ruins so much that is good about God’s world (Genesis 4:7). But there are two realities I’d like to share about sin that may open up some new vistas for envisioning Christian life. First, an insight from a Christian theologian. Stanley Hauerwas has said that a person doesn’t sin until she or he is a Christian. I remember hearing him say that and waiting for a moment to let it sink and make some sense. Only it wasn’t! But he went on to talk about how the sinful things you do before you are a Christian you don’t call sin. You only begin confessing sin and that you are a sinner when you become a Christian. In a sense, being Christian is learning a new set of language about your life, your habits, and your speech patterns. In fact, confessing sin can be pretty difficult. It’s far easier to speak about mistakes, faults and things “I didn’t really mean that way.” Part of Christian discipleship, however, is to learn the difficult practice of naming what I did as sin. The promising reality about confession is that it clears space for restoration and forgiveness – true freedom.
I’ve discovered the second thing about sin, and it’s one of my favorite things about being Christian. I used to think that being Christian involved all sorts of positive behaviors, like mission trips and service opportunities, but if I sinned, that was a dead end. I was no longer behaving like a Christian. I needed to put it in reverse, get myself out of that situation and get back on track with Christian behaviors. But that’s a wrong conception. What is wonderful about being Christian is that even when we sin, there is hope. There are no dead ends! There are Christian habits and practices for when we find ourselves in sin. The only trick is that when we sin, we begin to believe the lie that the only way out is perhaps covering up what we’ve done. Or perhaps we begin to imagine some other manipulative way of minimizing the pain or the shame.
When we sin, however, the only way out is further Christian practice – honesty, confession of sin, restoration and maybe asking for help. Because God is a God who gives life to the dead and creates plenty in the desert, we can be sure that there are always many ways of escape out of any situation that feels like a dead end. Even in sin, there is hope. But hope takes the form of Christian behaviors leading to restoration.
O God who restores, rescues and redeems, give us grace so that when we stumble we see hope in confession, seeking forgiveness and restoration, for the good of your people and the glory of your name.