Thursday, April 2, 2009

Repentance

A man was losing sleep because he had been cheating on his taxes. He finally decided that he needed to do something about it. He wrote a letter to the IRS that read as follows:

Dear Sirs,

For several years I have not been honest in paying my taxes. Enclosed is $650.00 that I owe.

Sincerely,

Joe Taxpayer.

PS If I still can't sleep, I will send the rest.

Isn’t that human nature? Even when faced with guilt we tend to hold back from telling the whole truth. Why is that?

Yesterday I was listening to Family Life Today. The subject was forgiveness after finding out about a spouse’s sexual impurity. Here is what stood out to me:

Bob: And, you know, most guys are thinking, "I don't want to tell any, and I don't want to say it at all." I mean, it's a scary prospect for a husband to sit down with his wife and say, "I'm coming clean on this kind of a situation." Do you think when I tell guys at a Weekend to Remember Marriage Conference – "You've got to bring your wife in on this, or you're not going to get where you need to go?" Am I giving them the right counsel?

Susan: Yes, you are. What typically happens, though, is a man will put out what I call a "tester confession." He'll see how she responds and then give her more later.

Dennis: So if she reacts strongly, he may retreat and may never come clean.

Susan: Possibly.

Bob: Give me an example of a tester confession. What would a guy say?

Susan: "I only did it two times," or, you know, "I looked at this stuff, but I didn't do this much," you know, usually there's an "only," there's a limitation to what he did or who he was with or wasn't with.
I thought the idea of a tester confession was very interesting. It’s probably not the way to handle confession but I understand why people would do it. Fear holds us back.

This makes me think of another related topic. Here is the situation: a spouse was unfaithful at some time in the past. It’s been over for a long time. Should they now tell their spouse? I know that some people advocate keeping quiet. They say that since it’s over, it would only make things worse for the spouse to find out. I don’t think that is a good idea. One reason would be that if the spouse ever finds out in the future they are going to think that it was hidden for a reason and would probably think it is still going on. The bigger reason is that real repentance usually costs. The confession may well cause waves and severe turmoil in the marriage. If that is anticipated then it would be a good idea to have some good counsel on how to go about the confession and it might be good to have someone else there when it is done.

Another reason for incomplete repentance is when someone is caught or anticipates getting caught. They “confess” what they must to get the heat off. In other words, they tell as little as possible even though they may act like they are coming clean. One thing to look for in cases like this: did the person reveal information that no one else knew. Are they revealing more than they need to?

1 John 1:9 says this: If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. We can be confident in this promise from God; He is always ready to forgive and cleanse. Of course people are a different matter. We may not get the same attitude from them. Nevertheless, we still need to repent and if they respond incorrectly then we can’t do anything about that even though we may have to live with it.

Philip

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