What should a Christian do, when they sin? Well obviously, they need to repent, and if it involves others they need to seek forgiveness as well and offer heartfelt apologies. Obviously, since ever sin is against God, they need to make amends with the Almighty first and foremost, but that is by no means the end of the story. Protestants, historically, have turned a blind eye to such Biblical injunctions as ‘confess your sins to one another’ (notice it does not say to the pastoral counselor or to the minister or to the priest in a confessional booth). James 5 is pretty clear on this matter. James wants open accountability in the body of Christ. John Wesley’s way of dealing with this was to set up band meetings, gender specific band meetings, which met every week and asked questions like ‘What sins have you committed this week that you know of?’ What sins may you have committed that you suspect were sins? What acts of piety or charity have you failed to do that qualify as sins of omission?’ and so on. Unfortunately, Protestants have not done the confessional piece very well when it comes to dealing with sin after the fact.
Furthermore, Protestants have done a good job of ignoring what Jesus says about ‘when your brother has something against you, you should go to them….’ Notice it isn’t the other way around. The offended party is not told to seek out the offender, on the contrary it is the one who has sinned who should take the initiative to make things right. This is just the opposite of a victim seeking vindication for harm done.
In other words, Christians need to be so self-aware, so that if they even suspect they have done harm, they should be going out of their way to make things right and heal the breach in a relationship with a fellow Christian, apologizing, asking for forgiveness, and so on. Unfortunately, these waters have been severely muddied by the fact that we now live in such a narcissistic culture, a culture of victimization, where no one wants to take responsibility for their misbehavior and everyone is in the self-justification spin cycle blaming others for their woes, that it is hard to get straight what God really wants from us in such situations.
In our final part of this series we must discuss, the consequences, the awful consequences of sin.