Confronting sin: Do I have to?

Sin can occur in multiple ways. One believer can sin against another individual. One believer could sin against a small group of people. A believer could sin against the church. Or, a believer could sin in a public manner. I am thinking mainly of the first 2 examples: I think they bring distinct challenges that broader, or more public sin, does not. What happens when someone sins against me?

In thinking through this matter, the first question that comes to mind is, “Do I really have to do something about this?” Peter says “love covers a multitude of sins” (1 Peter 4:8). Proverbs indicates the wise person knows “love covers all offenses” (10:12) and covering an offense is seeking love (17:9). Paul says love “endures” and “bears” all things (1 Cor. 13:7). Do I really have to confront sin? For the sake of peace and love shouldn’t I just let it go? I mean what about that 70 times 7 stuff?

On the other hand, believers are not even to eat a meal with a professing believer who is guilty of gross sin (1 Cor. 5:9-11). Such sin includes anyone refusing to work (2 Thess. 3:6); anyone disobeying apostolic instruction (2 Thess. 3:14); anyone disagreeing with apostolic teaching (2 John 10-11); and anyone stirring up division by arguing over trivial matters (Titus 3:9-11). Whatever “covering” sin might mean, just ignoring it is certainly not included.

The apostle James points us toward reconciliation: “My brothers, if anyone among you wanders from the truth and someone brings him back, let him know that whoever brings back a sinner from his wandering will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins” (5:19-20). The way to cover sin is not to ignore it, or get over it; the way to cover sin is to bring someone back from it. Confronting sin is the biblical way to cover sin.

In worship, Psalm 32 teaches us how to cover sin. Sin will always be hidden. It is just a matter of who is doing the covering. The blessed man has his sin covered (Ps. 32:1). The blessed man has gone through the painful process of trying to cover his sin (Ps. 32:3-4). His body aches from trying to hide his sin from God and man. Finally, he cries out to the Lord confessing his sin and bringing it out into the open. When he uncovers his sin (32:5), he finds the Lord covers it in His own forgiveness (32:1). Instead of hiding his sin, he hides himself in the Lord (32:7) and finds himself surrounded by the Lord’s faithful love (32:10).

In wisdom, Proverbs 28:13 echoes Psalm 32: “Whoever conceals his transgressions will not prosper, but he who confesses and forsakes them will obtain mercy.” Yes, strictly speaking, this applies to the sinner and not to the one sinned against. If loving another person, however, means seeking their best, than we should desire to see someone guilty of sin confess that sin and not simply ignore it.

So one stream of biblical texts seems to encourage overlooking, covering, hiding sin; while another stream encourages not hiding sin, but confessing it. Both of these come together in well know sin-confronting passage of Matthew 18:15-20. Jesus, in whom is hid the treasures of all wisdom, lays out the path of confronting sin while covering it.

You do have to confront sin. But you have to do it as quietly as possible. Sin is not confronted on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, etc. Sin is confronted in person: face-to-face. If that does not work, some trusted friends are taken along to try to bring about confession. As a final resort, things are laid out before the church so the body of Christ may press and pray for confession and saving from death.

Psalm 119:169-176 Taw A prayer and brief note

Lord, I am lost. I can’t see you right now, so I need you to hear my voice. I have said so much about your word. About keeping your word, Seeking your word. Loving your word. But now I need you to hear my word Lord. I need you to hear my voice, because I have wandered. In my cries for help, hear too my praise and rejoicing for the wisdom of your commands. Let your hand be quick to act upon what your ear hears. Look for me Lord! Save me that I may continue to praise you.

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The declaration of lostness at the end of Psalm 119 is startling. “Save me” is often cried out. But it is the cry of relief from persecutors, oppression, and affliction. When I read the last verse, I was struck by how little confession of sin and guilt there is in 119. Now I feel as if I need to go back through the Psalm to see if I was missing it or if my stomach was just so full of food from Thanksgiving it started pushing things out of my brain.

Psalm 119:161-168 Sin/Shin A Prayer

What is the good of loving your words? Such love strengthens me to stand against foes. Loving your law teaches me to hate lies. Such live gives me peace and stability. It is from love that I obey. So hearing you speak is the treasure at the end of a journey. Not a minute passes by when I don’t have reason to praise your guidance. O Lord, you are my hope. I desire to do all you tell me to do because you are the one speaking. You are the one who sees all of my steps.

Psalm 119 A Love Quartet

The earth, O LORD, is full of your steadfast love; teach me your statutes! (64)
In your steadfast love give me life, that I may keep the testimonies of your mouth. (88)
Let your steadfast love come to me, O LORD, your salvation according to your promise. (41)
My eyes long for your promise; I ask, “When will you comfort me?” (82)
Deal with your servant according to your steadfast love, and teach me your statutes. (124)

Oh how I love your law! It is my meditation all the day. (97)
I hate and abhor falsehood, but I love your law. (163)
I hate the double-minded, but I love your law. (113)
I long for your salvation, O LORD, and your law is my delight. (174)
Great peace have those who love your law; nothing can make them stumble. (165)

I will lift up my hands toward your commandments, which I love,
And I will meditate on your statutes. (148)
For I find my delight in your commandments, which I love. (47)
I open my mouth and pant, because I long for your commandments. (131)
Therefore I love your commandments above gold, above fine gold. (127)

Consider how I love your precepts! Give me life according to your steadfast love. (159)
Let your steadfast love comfort me according to your promise to your servant. (76)
Turn to me and be gracious to me, as is your way with those who love your name. (132)
Behold, I long for your precepts; in your righteousness give me life! (40)
Hear my voice according to your steadfast love; O LORD, according to your justice give me life. (149)

Psalm 119:153-160 Resh A Prayer

O Lord you are my great and merciful defender and savior. You have promised to give me life on your terms. While I love your ways, it is your love for me that gives me life. I’m in some trouble here, but I am not forgetting what you promised or leaving the guidance of your truths. The wicked, on the other hand, flee salvation as they fly from your commands. Disgust me with their sin. I’ve added it all up and know your word is true. Everything you say lasts to the ages of ages.

Psalm 119:145-152 Qoph A Prayer

I am calling to you and crying O Lord. Why don’t you answer and save me so I may show obedience your rules. I am getting up before the sun and everyone else in my family to cry for help; to look for hope in your word; and to fill my mind with your promises. So hear me Lord! Give me life in the faithful mercy of your justice.  People running from your law are running at me with evil. But you are already here Lord. Your truths remain- never coming and going.

Psalm 119:137-144 Tsade A Prayer

O Lord your righteousness is righteous. How this cheers my heart and lifts my soul! Your rightness is right. Not because it is better than someone else’s. Not because it is the best course of action at the time. Your righteousness is right. So all the words you speak are right. Your rules are right. Your truths are always faithful because they are right. Your forever righteousness is faithful. Your law and testimonies are right, faithful, and forever. This gladdens my heart in the midst of trouble and anguish.

Psalm 119:129-136 Pe A prayer

My soul is in awe of your truth. Your word is overwhelming; it floods my mind with light, dispelling the gloom of folly. Your commandments quench my thirst for meaning. Keep me from disaster by keeping every step I take faithful to your promise. Give me patience with the long walk of obedience even when you bless others with quick success, while others seem to prosper in iniquity. Give me eyes to see long and a back to stand strong. Give me grace to mourn the sin of others while cheering me with the light of your face.

Psalm 119:121-128 ‘Ayin A Prayer and notes

Lord I am trying to be fair and do the right thing, but it is hard when I get in trouble and am persecuted for doing so. So I really want to see you act on my behalf. I want to see you keep your promises. If you do, I know it is not because I deserve it. You don’t owe me. But you love me, and your love never fails. Keep on teaching about your love and how it is stronger than the difficulties I encounter. But sometimes I don’t know how much longer I can wait Lord. I don’t know how much longer you can wait. What you tell me to do is better than all the enticements of the world. Show me your law is love.

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It has been a few days. I did not give up the task; there are just some things going on now that kept me from completing this octave. So here is a little more than usual as a peace offering.

The stanzas follow a 2+1+2+1+2 pattern.

The first couplet of 121 and 122 is united thematically by the triple mention of just, right, and good. They are united linguistically by the 2 mentions of oppression (same Hebrew word). They are also united by the lack in either stanza of any of the recurring terms for God’s word (cf. 119:90-91).

The middle couplet of 124 and 125 are united thematically by the triple mention of teach me, understanding, and that I may know.  They are united linguistically by the 2 mentions of your servant.

The last couplet of 127 and 128 is united thematically by the contrast between love and hate.

The individual stanzas of 123 and 126 do share a thematic bond of waiting for the Lord to do what he said he will do.

Given this, perhaps an A-B-C-B’-A’ structure can be proposed something along the lines of:

A I have done what is right in spite of oppression

B I am waiting for you to keep your word

C I renounce my will to know the love of your word

B’ I am waiting for you to act

A’ I have loved what is right instead of lies

Psalm 119:113-120 Samekh A prayer

Give me right affections my God. With love for your law give me disdain for those who know it and ignore it. Grow my love for all your truths and help me see the lies of the wicked are worthless. It is not them, not the evil doers, nor those who go astray that I fear; it is you. Your judgment I cannot endure. Lift me up to life and hold me in safety. Make your word my hope.