As a Pastor, I have seen this truth play out time and again. In my own life. And in the life of those claiming to belong to Jesus. A large part of God’s sanctification (making holy) of His redeemed people involves teaching us to just “come clean.” Own our sin. Confess it and then begin the process of repentance (renouncing it and turning away from it as you pursue Jesus Christ). God’s initial questions to Adam after he fell into rebellion are aimed squarely at inviting Adam to “come clean.” Adam failed that test miserably, by the way (see Genesis 3:8-12).
God takes this so seriously that He actually expects members of the Church redeemed by the blood of His Son and our Savior, the Lord Jesus, to “confess your sins to one another” (James 5:16). Our Lord has called us out of darkness into His marvelous light and now expects us to “walk [live] in the light as He [God] is in the light” (1 John 1:7). We should not hide our sins, Christians! Jesus has paid the price for our sins and set us free from their bondage and guilt. Hallelujah! We can be transparent. Nothing to fear in confessing and repenting of sins. It’s the way of the Christian. We have been given Divine grace, making us people of ongoing confession and repentance. Keeping dirty little secrets is the way of the first Adam. Walking in the light is the way of the Second Adam. God gave justice to our sins in the body of His Son on the cross, so that we believers could walk in righteous freedom (1 Peter 2:24). Knowing there is “no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1) rightly empowers us to “come clean” time and again with God and one another, with the humble acknowledgement that we are a community forged and refined by Sovereign Grace! We are forgiven. So forgiveness is in our DNA (Matthew 18:21-35; Ephesians 4:32). No need to fear confession in the community of saints. It is our joy and power and freedom bought by Christ.
The NCAA recently hammered the University of Louisville with penalties in response to their sex scandals revealed in a 2015 book by Katina Powell, Breaking Cardinal Rules: Basketball and the Escort Queen. Initially, Ms. Powell was castigated and mocked. But turns out her allegations were true. Basketball recruits between the years of 2010 and 2014 were having the pot sweetened by UofL, with a high level coach hiring prostitutes for them! Want to flood your athletic programs with the best of the best? Just give them “free” sex. All of it they want.
Now, the Head Coach, Rick Pitino has denied any knowledge. Whether you believe that or not is not my bone to pick. Coach Pitino and the UofL leadership self-imposed several penalties to show remorse. They even removed themselves from post-season play in 2016-17 and reduced their number of scholarships for that same season. But the NCAA did not think it was enough. They wanted more blood and so socked them with numerous penalties, which may even mean Louisville has to essentially “erase” its National Championship season. Coach Pitino and the Administration reacted with incredulity. Shocked. Outraged. Crying “not fair.” And “over the top.” And “injustice.”
While the UofL is in no way the Church or a church, and while I obviously do not expect a secular university to joyfully submit to the commands of King Jesus, I do think there are lessons here for us as Christians in the Church.
- Sometimes we as Christians demand “more blood” from one another too, even after a brother or sister has confessed and asked for forgiveness. Per Matthew 18, this is a high crime against our forgiving God.
- Sometimes we say we have forgiven one another, but give the relational cold shoulder for months or years thereafter. No doubt UofL and the NCAA will have no love for each other in years ahead. But we, dear Church, are not the UofL nor the NCAA. We are the forgiven in Christ filled with His love and Spirit. When we confess and repent to Jesus, does He give us the cold shoulder for months or years afterwards? (See 1 John 1:9)
- Sometimes we are shocked by justice. If you think the NCAA is harsh, consider that God Almighty under the Old Covenant with Israel imposed the death penalty on the very behaviors of those sex-crazed athletes! We so often try to make little of our sins against the Lord. But God never sees sin as little. It’s so big to Him that He crushed His own Son on the cross so that those who trust in Christ alone for forgiveness will never have to endure the everlasting death penalty of God’s wrath against our sins (Isaiah 53).
- We should be shocked by grace and mercy. Justice is simply what we have earned and deserve (Romans 6:23). But our culture has imbued us with a sense of entitlement. And it’s spiritually deadly to our souls. May we resist in the power of God’s Spirit and sing with tears of joy, “Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound!”
Let’s not allow the University of Louisville and the NCAA to be our paradigm, dear Church! Let’s walk in the Light. Let’s confess. Let’s repent. Let’s forgive. Let’s live as a Community of “Come Cleaners” who stand in awe of our Savior’s love and mercy. For Jesus is worthy of us living in just such ways!
“For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Corinthians 5:21).