I got some food on my tie at a church potluck a while back.
I didn’t want to just throw away the tie because it was among my favorites, so I took a damp rag and removed the food. The next time I decided to wear that tie, I left it lying with my other church clothes, all of which had been approved as a well-coordinated outfit by my fashion consultant.
When I went to get dressed, I found that my fashion consultant’s dog had chewed on the portion of the tie where the food had been. I don’t know how much time had elapsed between the spilling/cleaning and the chewing, maybe months, but I concluded that, although I did my best to remove the food so there’d be no stain, the scent of the food apparently remained and in the end I still had to throw away the tie.
I’m not going to start throwing away clothes when I spill food on them (and I certainly won’t be throwing out my fashion consultant or her dog). I’ll just be more careful to prevent spills and to keep the dog away just in case there’s been a spill.
Likewise, when we become Christians, we’re to be proactive against temptation, taking the way out and sinning no more (1 Corinthians 10:13; Matthew 26:41; John 8:11; 2 Peter 3:14; 1 Peter 2:12). While it’s impossible for us to keep ourselves spotless, according to 1 John 1:8, to keep from becoming discouraged and falling back into a sinful lifestyle, we shouldn’t hang out with people who encourage us to sin or constantly remind us of our failures (Colossians 1:21-23; 2 Peter 2:20-22; Hebrews 6:4-6).
Additionally, we may be able to conceal our sins for a time so others won’t know, but eventually they’ll come out, if not in this life, certainly in the next (Luke 12:2-3; 1 Timothy 5:24-25; Hebrews 4:13).
On the other hand, when we repent, confess the sin, and seek forgiveness from God, rather than throwing us out, he removes the stain along with the scent of guilt as far as he’s concerned (Jeremiah 2:21-22; 1 John 1:9; Psalm 102:8-12; Ephesians 5:25-27; Isaiah 6:1-7). On the other hand, if we don’t stay right with God through confession, he’ll throw us out (John 6:35-40; 14:15-23; 15:1-6).
Nonetheless, even forgiven sin can leave a spot or scent that others can pick up on, especially if it’s of significant enough consequence to interfere with our Christian witness and/or ability to function properly in society.
Trying to conceal sin often makes matters worse. While not all sin should be publicly confessed, confessing some critical sins publicly helps prevent any lingering scent (Proverbs 28:13; James 5:16).
Is any sin burdening you with a scent (or stench) of guilt? Jesus can take that away (Acts 2:38-39; 22:16; Mark 16:16).
Can any sin haunt you later if others find out? Confess it publicly in addition to God and then live your life freely as one who is guiltless.
Leonard Lauriault is a member of the Church of Christ in Logan. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org