This post is not about avoiding temptation, as important as that is. This post is about the transition of sin from activity to slavery; the aftermath of sin that keeps us ensnared even after the promises of sin have proven themselves empty. For some reason, even after sin has proven itself to be a “bad idea” we resist taking the steps that would lead to freedom.
The first thing that sin does is that it breaks relationship. Towards God sin is idolatry. God is demoted as we trust something or someone else to give us what we really want. This is why sin is called spiritual adultery (James 4:4); we are breaking our covenant with God.
Towards people sin is a form of dishonor. We violate the terms of decency, honesty, fairness, or respect in order to gain comfort or avoid discomfort. We choose to harm or disadvantage others in order to protect, entertain, or benefit our self.
But this is not enough to account for the enslaving nature of sin. If this was all there was to sin, then we would see that God keeps His promises and sin doesn’t. We would do the math, repent, and live happy lives. If that was all there was to sin, we would see that dishonor breeds dishonor and stop the inevitable deterioration.
The second thing sin does is that is distances relationship. After sin we feel guilt and shame, so we pull away from God and Christian friends. This is the mechanism that transforms sin from being foolish to dangerous. In so many ways, temptation is a much “lesser evil” than isolation.
Guilt and shame lead us to be less genuine and open in our relationships. As we share less, we feel less known to our Christian friends. As we feel less known, the things they say (even from Scripture) begin to feel less “relevant” to “real life.” As conversation becomes less relevant, their advice begins to feel cliché or “light weight” to our struggles. It is now “obvious” that God could never really deliver on what you thought you were getting when you became a Christian.
But this is actually the “best” possible outcome of silence that isolation brings. As others withdraw from being authentic in their Christian friendships, their friends assume something is wrong. They ask questions to find out what is wrong. Being more committed to hiding shame than being honest, the individual gets defensive.
From here only of two things happens. First, the friends can continue to pursue. In which case, the individual construes their love as either intrusiveness or being judgmental. Either way, the individual convinces himself that his friend’s love is a bigger problem than his sin.
Second, the friends can step back because of the defensiveness; when told (verbally or non-verbally) to “back off,” they do. In this case, the individual is left even more alone than he would be in fake Christian friendships and can easily convince himself that their distance means his Christian friends never really cared.
The dominos of what happens when we fail to confess sin could be traced further, but I believe we’ve seen enough to substantiate my primary point – the most dangerous part of sin is not temptation, but isolation. It is what we do after we sin that is the difference between sin as an activity and sin as slavery.
So what is the take away?
Fear hiding sin as much, if not more, than you fear sin. There are many passages that talk about both God’s willingness and power to forgive sin (I John 1:9-10). There are many passages that talk about the way God uses Christian friends to protect us from sin (Heb. 3:12-13). There is hope for sin.
There is no hope for silence. There is wisdom in the AA adage, “You are only as healthy as your secrets.” When we prefer to protect our ego or reputation more than our soul that is called pride. And we should take very seriously the warning in James 4:6, “But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, ‘God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.’”