“If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.”
– 1 John 1:8
Just as I was about to drive away from a meeting and head home one evening someone tapped on my window to inform me that one of the headlights was out on my vehicle. Oh well, I thought, it’s too late to do anything about it now, I’ll fix it in the morning. The problem was, the route home required driving on a state highway, and home was several miles away. Oh well, again I thought, it is what it is. As you can probably guess, before I had traveled too far suddenly there appeared in my rearview mirror those dreaded flashing lights of a state trooper.
Obviously, I knew why I was being pulled over, the question was how should I respond? Plead guilty or plead ignorance, ignorance being perfectly understandable in this case? But since I was aware of the burned-out headlight, I chose honesty as the best policy and pled guilty. So as the officer approached I rolled down the window, and before he could say a word I blurted out to him, “Oh man! I thought I could make it home before you caught me.” The trooper, being a man of good humor, responded by laughing out loud at my remark, and after a short conversation let me off with only a warning citation.
Let’s face it, we all mess up, don’t we? (In my case it seems to be a daily occurrence, usually multiple times.) The challenge then becomes what to do after we commit these misbehaviors, bad choices, violations of rules and laws, or hurtful actions against others. In the matter of my burned-out-headlight violation it was easy enough to plead guilty. After all, it was only a minor offense, the cause of which was vehicle malfunction, not a malicious act on my part. Even the cop, who was just doing his job, found humor in it. But what about when we do things that are flagrantly wrong and hurtful to others?
The Apostle John first tells us, “If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.” But then he goes on to say, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” Confession, however, is not offered to gain acceptance from God; rather, to remove the barriers that our wrongdoings have put between ourselves and others, and between ourselves and God. It is only when we plead guilty that we position ourselves to restore those relationships.