I have been contemplating sin lately and how much I coddle it and excuse it. Let me give an abstract example in my life. Frequently, I will excuse away a sinful tendency in my life with the statement, “I didn’t do it so I didn’t sin.” I have heard this kind of reasoning in society at large and even in theological discourse where people argue, “Being ____ isn’t sinful, but participating in the act is.”
As I have been reflecting on my own sin, I have been struck by the reality of sin. To desire something, to align myself with a sinful habit, or to simply coddle the thought is in itself sinful. It is to desire my will more than God’s. It is to assume that my thought life is not an offense to a holy God. But it is, for Jesus says,
But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart. Matt. 5:28
Thoughts are the same as actions in God’s economy because thoughts are an overflow of our heart and our deepest desires. Sin permeates our very personhood. It goes well beyond simply acting upon our thoughts and encompasses our very thought life. The sheer desire to do something God finds unholy is sinful, whether we actually perform it or not. The mental gymnastics we make to excuse lifestyles of greed, immorality, selfishness and idolatry are sinful in and of themselves. Each and every person is sinful to the core, and that is why we need a Savior.
It would be easy to become depressed over my recent reflections on sin and their implications (and it certainly isn’t a politically correct view of sin in society, either) but we have a savior who cleanses us from all sin. Who died on the cross so that we could admit how utterly helpless we are without God’s mediating act of salvation. He saves, we simply must
confess our sin and he is faithful and just to forgive us our sin and cleanse us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9).
If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word has no place in our lives. 1John 1:10
People of God, let’s be honest and recognize our sin as utterly sinful in all the places we find it. Let us call our thoughts sinful, our actions sinful, even the kinds of behaviors we want to excuse because we are not practicing them, but still desire to be identified by them as sinful. They are sinful, and the sooner we admit it the better for our experience of salvation, but the longer we hold out and deny, the harder our hearts get and the worse our prognosis.