One of the most well-known stories in the Bible is the Good Samaritan. It is a tale about a man who was attacked and left for dead. Two religious men see him in trouble, but refuse to help. Then a Samaritan walked by. Now, if you didn’t grow up in church, you might not realize that Jew’s hated Samaritans; this was the enemy approaching a wounded man. Tension mounts. What would happen?
Rather than ignoring or taking advantage, helped the injured man, the Samaritan helped. He covered the wounds and provided a place of safety.
Even though this is one of the most famous stories Jesus ever told, many don’t realize that he was answering a question. In Luke 10, a man asked Jesus what he needed to do in order to be right with God. The response Jesus gave included, “love your neighbor as yourself.” (Luke 10:27).
Then the man responded, “Who is my neighbor?”
Luke tells us that the man was not asking so that he could change his behavior or to make sure that he was doing the right things. Instead, he was trying to make himself look good. He wanted to “justify himself.”
This is a common temptation. We can see it in the Bible as far back as the garden. We can see it in our kids when they say: “It wasn’t me.” We see it in ourselves when we make a mistake or commit a sin, and don’t want to admit fault. Our first reaction is self-preservation and self-justification. “It wasn’t that bad. It wasn’t really a sin.”
Though self-justification is normal, it is also unhealthy for 3 reasons:
1. It leaves us vulnerable to the same temptation again. If we refuse to acknowledge our sin, we will not feel it’s weight. We are then more likely to do it again.
2. It rejects the possibility that we hurt someone else and need to help them heal. All of our sin is against God, but it also hurts others. When we justify ourselves and deny wrong-doing, we make light of the experiences of others and are not able to help them recover from our sin.
3. It damages our relationships with ourselves, others, and God. Our sin does not make God love us any less, but it does erect a barrier of relationship from our end. The shame we feel keeps us from prayer and the Bible. It keeps us from God.
Rather than denying we are wrong or justifying our actions as right, the better reaction is to face our failure head-on. When we sin, admit it, confess it, and make things right. It won’t be the easiest, but it will be the step that brings healing and protection from future sin.
We all have co-workers, classmates, or family members who never admit a mistake or confess a sin. They think they are justified, but they are not fooling anyone but themselves. These people have fewer friends, live shallow lives, and are much more prone to behavior that is self-destructive.
The Bible tells us: If we confess our sin, he is faithful and just to forgive us and cleanse us of all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:9)
Confession sounds like a complicated religious ritual. We get visions of a priest behind a screen. However, the word simply means: “to agree.” Or “to say the same thing.”
According to this verse, we receive forgiveness and cleansing from God when we agree that we have blown it — he already knows, so we say the same thing. “God this really was wrong. It was hurtful to _____. I am sorry.” This is the pathway to being cleansed from all unrighteousness.
Say “good-bye” to self-justification and say “hello” to owning, apologizing, and walking away from sin and destructive behavior. Say hello to forgiveness and a clean life.