Thursday, November 30, 2006

Rebuke, Truth, Confession, Forgiveness

I don't know how carefully Tyndale (the folks who publish the One Year Bible) try to make each day's readings fit together, but days like today make me think it's not just coincidence:

Proverbs 28.23: He who rebukes a man will afterward find more favor than he who flatters with the tongue

1 John 1.7-9: If we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his son cleanses us from all sin. 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.

Well, maybe it is. The proverbs do talk a lot about wise living - about doing what's right rather than what's simply expedient (note that favor comes "afterward" - the NIV has "in the end": it's what's good in the long run). And 1 John talks a lot about the truth. When I was in college, over 30 years ago now, someone told me that the Greek word for "truth" was the same word translated "reality". So John is talking about living according to the truth - that is, living according to reality. And if that's not wise living, I don't know what is.

Anyway, this passage from 1 John is a great one to live by. If I want to be cleansed from all sin, from all unrighteousness, then it looks like the thing to do is
  • walk in the light
  • not deny that I have sin
  • confess my sins
What does it mean to walk in the light? For one thing, when information comes my way, do I welcome it, or do I get mad and defensive? Do I take it as an opportunity to change my thinking, my habits and practices, or do I make it out to be an insult or a personal attack?

If I walk in the light and accept new information - in particular if I accept reproof graciously, that will help others to feel safe in giving me the rebukes that I need.

Then I can confess my sins and find forgiveness.

The temptation, of course, is to seek excuses rather than forgiveness. Of course forgiveness is better, because in my heart of hearts I know I'm actually guilty.

I wanted to mention one other temptation: sometimes when I remember this verse, I somehow think it means "if we feel bad enough about our sins for long enough, he will forgive...." This of course is nonsense. It's good to recognize sin for what it is, but the truth is that forgiveness (and cleansing) come when I confess.

And wouldn't that be nice - to be both forgiven and made clean!

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