Sunday, January 31, 2010

Boasting In Our Mistakes

Another media darling in the news, this time with a chorus line of affairs--too shocking, too outrageously good for TV ratings to keep private.

The morning "news" shows that once catered to him now turn their back as they parade his mistresses before the American public.

Every time I visit an online news site, it seems more women readily vomit forth even the tiniest details of their sordid affairs. I rapidly click to another screen, refusing to read, to watch, to google, to twitter, or anything else that might continue to popularize and glorify this sin.

But one picture on an online news site caught my eye--a news interview, an appearance of lip-service penitence from a former mistresses, and a golden cross dangling from her neck...all while thousands tuned in to feast on the gossipy, sordid details, filling our country's fascination with illicit sex.

Two things bothered me about this image. First is the idea that if I am a Christian and am truly ashamed of my sin--even after I repent to God and turn from my sin--then it's still ok to glorify my sin by publishing tell-all books or hosting TV interviews, exploring every detail of that sin.

Glory and shame--it's a contradiction that just doesn't work where sin is concerned. In a way, recounting the details of one's sin in such a public forum is a "boasting" in that sin.

Jeremiah warned against boasting: "This is what the LORD says: Let not the wise man boast of his wisdom or the strong man boast of his strength or the rich man boast of his riches, but let him who boasts boast about this: that he understands and knows me, that I am the LORD, who exercises kindness, justice and righteousness on earth" (Jer. 9:23-24).

Although Jeremiah wasn't speaking directly about boasting over one's sin, he is clear that there is only one who is worthy of our boasting--God almighty.

Don't get me wrong--forgiveness needs to be sought between the person who sinned and God as well as between that person and the others she hurt or offended by her sin...but the public nature of these soul-baring confessions seems to be leading to another sin, the sin of pride.

Isaiah also speaks of glorying in one's sin. He says, "Woe to those who draw sin along with cords of deceit, and wickedness as with cart ropes" (5:18). The image here is a person walking through the center of town as she drags a cart-load of sin behind her for the sole purpose of giving others the chance to look at her sin.

In Hebrew, the word "ropes" refers to a "twisted, finely crafted cordage."* In other words, this is a heavy, multi-corded rope used to drag a heavy sin-laden cart. Some may argue this means there's a lot of sin stacked on her cart. I'm not so sure. If the consequence of one sin is death (Rom 6:23), then it stands to reason that one sin is a heavy weight.

I'll address a second issue in next week's post.

For now, I want to leave you with the question I have been asking myself--how do we know if it's glorying or boasting in our sin versus just sharing with another to help her avoid our mistakes?

I'm not sure, but I think the answer lies in our focus and on whom we might hurt in the process of "sharing".

Perhaps we should ask of anything we share about our personal sins, do I spend more time focusing on my sin? Or do I focus on how God forgave me and still uses me?

* Baker & Carpenter. The Complete Word Study Dictionary: Old Testament. AMG, 2003.


  1. The answer lies in Matthew 6:1-2. This question can only be answered by examining your own motives and intent for sharing information about your own sins. It is difficult, if not impossible, to know someone elses motives so I (try to) leave that judgement to the One who knows. I believe in the end it will be your intent and motive that will be judged on such matters.

  2. I agree with Kendall. You will know by your own motives. Anything not done out of love should not be done. Even God corrects in love. In the letters to the churches in Revelation, He points out what they are doing wrong, but He always says something positive as well. I think that's a good base for us to walk in. Don't tear down unless you are willing to build back up. Great post Jennifer!

  3. I agree with you both that it has to do with the heart--both good Scripture references. But sometimes, it seems all too simple to trust my motives when they are determined by a deceitful heart. (And also the knowledge that even the purest of motives can hurt others unwittingly.) What I think is a pure motive, I wonder if I will feel that way later. And then I have to wonder about the definition of a "pure" motive. It's fuzzy.

    My motive for worship on Sunday is to obey God's command to not neglect the assembling of ourselves and because I love worship in a communal environment--I feel lost in the weeks I have to stay home with sick kids. But there's also the motive of knowing people will ask where I am (or go 'tut tut') when I'm absent. So a motive that should be pure is, but isn't, too.

  4. The heart is deceitful, yes? Judging our own motives is nigh impossible.

    You've touched on an incredibly important subject here Jennifer, this crazy and destructive thing we do. We must bring sin into the light, yes. Confession of sin is wholly Biblical. But we even screw that up, don't we? We make it less about repentance than our pride, our attention needs, our who knows what.

    (And we feed that in others, don't we? We seem to crave the salacious details of the indiscretions of other folks...)