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What if we had to wear our sins like labels?

It’s hard to graduate from high school without reading The Scarlet Letter. Many have seen movie adaptations of Nathaniel Hawthorne’s classic novel. That’s the story in which Hester Prynne was made to wear a bright red “A” on the front of her clothing to display her sin of adultery. (Her partner in crime, so to speak, had not been found out, so he was not subject to the same public shaming.) As if Hester’s protruding pregnant belly did not sufficiently telegraph her condition, the dreaded scarlet letter made her situation clear to all.

All around her, the presumably pious turned up their noses at Hester, pointing their fingers and wagging their tongues at her visible sinfulness.

It’s easy to hear such a story without personalizing it. We can skim along, swiftly turning the pages and thinking we are altogether different. We like to think we are worlds apart from Hester and the haughty townspeople.

But we’re not. Maybe we carry less obvious sins. But any one of us could wear a letter or two.  How about “E” for envy? “G” for greed?  “P” for pride?

What if we all wore our sins for all to see?

Thank God we do not. In His mercy, He does not expose us in such a way. At least, He usually doesn’t. Most often, He draws us back with kindness. If we don't respond to that, He follows up with  loving discipline, aiming to restore us to walking with Him.

And we are relieved that our sins have not been broadcast.

But we wonder about the really wicked people. We recoil from those who do the most dastardly deeds and seem to get away with their crimes. Why is hypocrisy so often kept covered? Why doesn’t God expose sinners for who they really are?

Ouch. Maybe that’s all of us –to some degree.

God doesn’t measure righteousness in degrees. Either we’re righteous, or we’re not. And we’re not – not on our own.

Although we may seek a semblance of comfort in keeping certain sins private, the Bible clearly says no sin is hidden from God. He is fully aware of everything we do, every word we speak, and every thought we roll about in our minds. He knows our attitudes, whether or not they come out in our actions.

Whoever conceals their sins does not prosper, but the one who confesses and renounces them finds mercy. (Proverbs 28:13, NIV)

In vain, we try to stash our rebellions, refusing to confess them to the Almighty. Because of His absolute righteousness, sin cannot fellowship with Him. We may fool ourselves, and we may even fool one another, but we’re not fooling God.

 My eyes are on all their ways; they are not hidden from me, nor is their sin concealed from my eyes. (Jeremiah 16:17, NIV)

We’ve gotta have grace.

Truth does come out in time – in God’s time.

If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. (1 John 1:8, NIV)

Why does God seem to allow sin to be secret, even for a time?

Maybe He refrains from trumpeting our sins all about because He graciously awaits our turning to Him. And it’s a fair bet He doesn’t want to give sin any extra airtime.

But I am pretty sure the Lord knows us all well enough to know that we’d likely judge one another even more harshly, if we all wore our most secret sins like nametags. Then we’d have to wear extra name tags that read:

“holier-than-thou hypocrite”

“Pharisee wannabee”

 “pretender at perfection”

“self-appointed judge”

and the like.

The world would run out of nametags.

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:9, NIV)

Glory to God, who tears up the nametags of sin, when we come to Him. He writes His own Name on our hearts (see Hebrews 8:10) and writes our names in His heavenly Book of Life (see Revelation 13:9). And He calls us by much better names that those dirty old sin labels. He calls each of us:


child of the living God


joint heir with Christ







and so much more.

Adapted from public domain artwork

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1 comment:

  1. Wow!
    Thank you for a wonderfully encouraging/convicting piece!
    So well done.