//It’s ironic how this thought has itself been incubated for quite a while… It’s been more than a month since I jotted down the outline for this post.//
Under ideal conditions, bacteria can double their population every 20 minutes. So, if you leave a single bacterium cell alone in a favorable environment, it will become 2 cells after 20 minutes. They will again double after the 40 minute mark, and then after an hour, they will become 8 cells. Do the math, left undisturbed, after 4 hours, that one cell will be 4096 cells. Give it more time and there will be enough cells to spoil your food and possibly cause harm to the one who will eat it. The seemingly spotless plate on the left on the picture above could turn into the too-numerous-to-count plate on the center just overnight.
If only money earned interest that fast…
While money doesn’t multiply in that manner, sadly, sin does. Sin usually starts as tiny, dismissible thoughts. Too tiny for us to actually be freaked out about. Like that single bacterium.
Your boss reprimanded you for something that wasn’t your fault. You felt victimized by such injustice, and spent the whole day thinking about how you can subtly get back at him or her. In the process you’ve plotted murder plans just like criminals did on CSI. You may not have acted out on your plan, but you have mentally murdered your boss three times in three different ways. You may think to yourself that no harm has been done. But you have just, in the process, harmed yourself and sinned against God:
21 “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ 22 But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother[a] will be liable to judgment; whoever insults[b] his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell[c] of fire. -Matthew 5:21-22
No one may have noticed what went through your mind, but God did. You may also think that the effect of your thoughts ended the moment your head became cool again, but you may be wrong. You may have just become subtly more irritable as a result.
You were accidentally elbowed by some stranger during rush hour inside the MRT on your way to work. Instead of forgiving, you held a grudge. You felt irritated all day. Before you knew it, you’ve been irritable towards all your officemates who have done nothing to irritate you.
They may not have known what gave you a bad day, but just like a domino effect, you’ve turned their days somewhat bad as well.
You may start out by looking at a a beautiful girl (or guy). Then by taking a second glance, not just at his/her face, but at his/her body as well. The next thing you know, you’re undressing him/her in your thoughts. Then by the time you get home, you can’t stop thinking about it. It had turned into full blown lust, ready to be taken to the next level – an erotic movie, pornography, an urge for a sensual massage, or maybe an interpersonal sexual encounter.
These desires give birth to sinful actions. And when sin is allowed to grow, it gives birth to death -James 1:15, NLT
What was common in all three cases? You did not confess immediately – either to God, or to another brother or sister. The practice of confession, while being common in the Roman Catholic church, doesn’t seem to be as popular or institutionalized as a discipline in the Evangelical realm. Evangelicals should give it more importance, I believe. And so does John and James:
9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sinsand purify us from all unrighteousness. – 1 John 1:9
Make this your common practice: Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you can live together whole and healed. The prayer of a person living right with God is something powerful to be reckoned with. – James 5:16, MSG
Confession is first and foremost an acknowledgment that we are wrong. We acknowledge our sins before God, because all sins are ultimately against Him. We confess and confide to our brothers (or sisters) for reconciliation (if that person was the one you offended) and accountability (if otherwise). Part of being a functional spiritual community is sharing each other’s burdens, and that includes our struggles.
You find yourself attracted to a person of the same sex. You find that person physically attractive. You are drawn to that person socially, intellectually and spiritually as well. You start to have doubts regarding your feelings… Now what do you do?
Of course, the very first thing you should do is to tell God. You ask Him to help you understand your feelings. Is it wrong? Is it just a David-is-to-Jonathan type of brotherly attraction? Or is it perhaps slowly turning into a sexualized/eroticized/somewhat-emotionally-dependent thing? You may also ask God to bring or point a person in your life to whom you could talk to (not that person you’re attracted to though, most likely).
Ideally, that person would be understanding enough to try and assess your situation without judgment. He should also be godly-wise enough to know what to do. He should also be committed enough to walk with you through your journey, as a co-burden-bearer. This person should be able to journey with you – reprimanding you gently but firmly when you are in the wrong (“oops I blew up again” moments), and celebrating with you for each milestone (“congratulations, you haven’t been sarcastic this week!”). That is what Christian accountability should be like.
So, does that mean you should have one person to talk to regarding whatever shameful life problems you have? Well, it would be good if you have a handful of people you can be dead-honest to. A friend calls this concept as having “multiple anchors.” I’d say 3-5 individuals would be good enough.
Do you have any sins that you are yet to voluntarily confess to God?
If yes, what are you waiting for?
Do you have at least one brother or sister in Christ that knows all the hidden stuff in your heart and thought-life? If your answer is no, pray for God to lead you to one or more persons.
Are there burdens that you think you need to share to others, but are ashamed or afraid to?
This may be hard, but the longer you incubate that confession or burden, the worse the damage will be.
The song “Love Alone” by Caedmon’s call starts with the lyrics “no one will love me if they knew all the things I hide.” While this may feel true for most of us, I believe God, by His Spirit, enables His children to love other brothers and sisters as they are.
On top of it all, remember, God’s glory and our sanctification is far more important than our pride, fears and feelings of shame.