If you’re going to sin against God, make sure you sin against him in the right way.
Obviously, God doesn’t want you to sin at all. But, on this side of heaven, sinners will sin. When that happens, I urge you to sin in the one way that God prefers and not in the three ways he doesn’t.
#1—The Not-Sorry, Secret Sins
The first kind of sin is the one you’re not sorry for and that no one knows about, but not because you feel terribly guilty about your behavior. You’re having an affair and plan to reconnect secretly with her this upcoming weekend. You’re smiling to your sister-in-law’s face and talking behind her back (but, hey, she deserves it). You’re sharing bits of information that you promised not to repeat, but a good story is a good story, right?
God hates the not-sorry, secret sins. Not only do secrets make you sick, as our friends from AA often say, but the lack of sorrow pushes God out of your heart and slams the deadbolt before he can get back inside. “Pride goes before destruction,” the proverb says, and those who are proud of their sins destroy their connection to God (Proverbs 16:18).
#2—The Not-Sorry, Confessed Sins
The second kind of sin is the one that you don’t need to keep a secret because you’re not at all embarrassed about it. Are you vicious toward your stepdad? Do you go to church? Do you have any compassion for the widow on your block, the immigrant fleeing injustice, or the impoverished member of your family? Yes, no, and no, but not losing any sleep over it.
God hates this type of sin even more. It reveals a bold rejection of his will and a delusional belief that you will somehow survive the day when you have to stand before God and account for your actions. Isaiah described and warned, “The look on their faces testifies against them; they parade their sin like Sodom; they do not hide it. Woe to them!” (Isaiah 3:9).
You might feel tough talking big to God, but one day you will feel incredibly small when you face his judgment. Don’t let Isaiah’s “woe!” apply to you.
#3—The Sorry, Secret Sins
The third kind of sin is the most common among Christian people. We feel sorrow in our hearts for the stuff we mess up. We really want to be more faithful to our vows to love and respect, more gracious and humble on social media, and more obedient to God’s will for our lives. But we’re also scared that other Christians will judge, gossip, and think less of us once they know the truth.
God weeps over this type of sin because it prevents the prospering power of “one another.” While secret sins are absolutely forgivable (thank Jesus!), God has built into the fabric of the moral universe the healing power of community. Without “one another,” habits rarely change and sin stays on repeat in the Christian’s life. “Whoever conceals their sins does not prosper” (Proverbs 28:13).
#4—The Sorry, Confessed Sins
The final kind of sin is the one God most prefers. We not only feel sorrow in our hearts, but we express that sorrow through public confession. Whether with a small group of trusted friends or around the family dinner table, we drag our embarrassing choices into the light, asking for grace and opening ourselves to the wisdom and help of others.
If it was possible for God to smile over sin, he would smile over this one. Honest confession brings the family of God into the ring so we don’t have to fight the devil’s excuses and accusations alone. It gives fellow, forgiven sinners the chance to grab our hands and lead us to the cross where Jesus paid for every sin, this one included. And it heals us. James promises, “Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed” (James 5:16).
Reflect on the sins of your past week. What percentage of each of the four kinds did you commit? If many/most of them ended up in the final category, what led you to go public with the sinful parts of your personal life in a church culture where so many believers stay silent? We’re all working toward embracing the power of public confession and stepping out into God’s healing light.
Brothers and sisters, I pray you don’t sin today. But if you do, make sure you commit God’s favorite kind of sin.