The Suburbs of Sin

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As we come, week after week, to confess our sins, we need to learn to make certain fine distinctions. In one direction is the peril of a false scrupulousness, and in the other we see the error of rejecting that, and settling in complacently to substandard Christian living.

We don’t want hyper-scrupulousness of conscience, but not because it is too sensitive to sin—that would be impossible. We reject this error because it is not nearly sensitive enough, and constantly charges off after the wrong thing. It insists on feeling bad for sins that were not committed, and neglects those sins which were. Hyper-scrupulousness is usually little other than a life-long exercise in changing the subject. So we don’t want that. But this does not mean the alternative is callousness.

Spirit-led sensitivity to sin is always and everywhere a good thing. To notice the first stirrings of pride in ordinary conversations is a good thing. To mortify lusts when they have just begun to stir is nothing but a blessing. To refuse to live in the suburbs of sin is all to the good.

So as we come to confess our sins, make sure to confess the minor industry of false guilt that so easily springs up in our hearts. And at the same time, confess the breezy disregard of what God describes as actual sin, real sin, whether or not it has made it out of your internal attitudes yet. Guard your hearts. Guard your hearts really. Don’t be distracted by an external Advent penitence. Confess your sins, and make sure they are the real ones.

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