Let’s face it; we’ve all done it.
Morally, I mean.
Theologians refer to the first sin—the original sin—as “the Fall.” And it’s an appropriate image. God did not intend for humanity to crawl like beasts. Animals don’t bear His likeness. Nor did our Creator intend for us to slither like the archetype of evil. He designed our bodies to walk upright, a posture befitting our dignity as the crown of creation and bearers of the divine image. But sin makes us less than human. When we fall—morally, I mean—we are closer to the earth and further from our created purpose. Rather than ruling over the world, we become subject to it.
Fortunately, God did not leave humanity to crawl in the dust. After pronouncing curses on all of creation—the forewarned consequences of disobedience—the Triune God pronounced the gravest curse of all upon Himself. One day, the Father would send His Son to suffer the same evil that plagues all of humanity and to be “attacked” by the author of sin (Gen. 3:15).
In the person of Jesus Christ, God fulfilled His promise by becoming one of us. And, as one of us, He bore the penalty of sin. Unjustly, because He had never fallen. Voluntarily, because He loves us. Completely, because he is almighty God. He did this on behalf of all humanity and now offers complete restoration to any who would receive it. He invites us to stand upright again. No longer by our own strength, but in trusting dependence upon Him.
If you have placed your trust in Jesus Christ to save you from the penalty of your sin, you never need worry about condemnation—not from others and not from God (Romans 8:1). Therefore, sin has become a fundamentally different matter in the life of a believer. We are no longer subject to condemnation, so guilt and shame have no place in the life of a believer. Nevertheless, we remain vulnerable to temptation and prone to sin. We will stumble. We will fall. Even as we earnestly attempt to honor God, we will inevitably harm others by the poor choices we make and the sinful acts we commit.
While we never have to fear the eternal consequences of wrongdoing, unresolved sin can complicate our lives with earthly consequences, frustrate the Lord’s desire to bless us, and cause others immeasurable heartache. Despite our secure relationship with God, sin is still a deadly serious matter. Thankfully, the Lord has given us a means by which we can clear away the clutter of wrongdoing.
If you have unresolved sin in your life, consider the following actions:
Stop. Accept the truth of your poor choices or outright sin and take complete responsibility for the damage your action or inaction has caused. The purpose for this is not to deepen your sense of shame, but to acknowledge the effects of your wrongdoing. A realistic view of the truth is essential to recovering from a fall.
Confess. Confess your failure to the Lord in prayer and commit yourself to turning from it. Ask for His help. He has promised to provide you with the strength to meet this challenge (1 Cor. 10:13). If your sin has harmed another person, go to him or her and admit how you have failed or have contributed to making a situation worse. Be careful not to include any mention of his or her wrongdoing (even if it is greater than your own) and resist the temptation to minimize yours.
Reconcile. Apologize, showing genuine concern for how you have hurt the other person and damaged your relationship. Your authentic sorrow should reflect the intensity of his or her pain. If possible, you should offer restitution—not in an attempt to purchase forgiveness, but to help repair the damage you created by your sin. For example, if you stole money, return it. If you broke something, fix or replace it. Very often, though, the true damage is emotional, which cannot be repaired, only healed. In this case, offer what a wounded soul needs most: your empathy.
Rest. Receive the Lord’s forgiveness and accept that the other person may or may not respond as you might desire. Forgiveness is not something you deserve or have the right to demand. His or her choice to forgive must be made freely.
Review. Without being unduly hard on yourself, try to discover why you chose to act as you did. Choices arise from expectations—usually unconscious ones. Ask the Lord to show you what you don’t see so that you can replace destructive coping with constructive choosing (Ps. 139:23–24). Then ask Him to cleanse your heart of any desire for sin (Ps. 51:10).
This is not a magic formula. It is not something you must do to please God or to earn His favor. Christ died for your sin and rose from the dead to give you life; therefore, your heavenly Father will always be pleased with you. These steps are merely a means by which you can rid your life of the distractions and hindrances of unresolved sin, so that the Lord may shower you with blessings beyond your wildest imagining.
So, if you’ve fallen, what are you still doing on the ground? You can’t very well walk with the Lord while lying down there, can you? He’s offered you His hand. Take it! Stand up! Nice and tall, just like He intended.