“People who conceal their sin will not prosper” (Proverbs 28:13)
Reid and I were married when he returned from the Vietnam war in 1967. He had some time he needed to finish in his service in the Army, so he received orders that he was to be stationed at the Pentagon in Washington D.C. We loaded up our newlywed belongings and moved to Washington. I was fortunate enough to get a job in the Pentagon working for the Secretary of Defense. While there, I made a friend who was a fellow co-worker. Shortly before Reid was discharged from the Army, that friend and I got into a major argument. To this day I don’t even remember what it was about, but I must confess to you that back then I could be, well, let’s just say a difficult person. I ended up saying some things to this friend that I should not have. A few weeks later Reid’s time in the Army was complete, and we once again packed-up our belongings and moved back to Ohio. All was settled – or so I thought. But then four years later, Reid and I came to faith in Jesus Christ. A year after our conversion, as we were preparing to make a visit to see Reid’s parents in Maryland, God placed on my heart the need to drive another hour to Washington while we were there, look up that friend I was unkind to, and apologize. I confess that I fought doing it, but eventually when Reid and I got to Maryland we made the trip from Annapolis down to Washington. We drove to my former friend’s home, and I rang the doorbell. She was shocked when she opened the door and saw me standing there. I explained to her that I now had a relationship with Jesus Christ, and he had put on my heart the need to express my regret for how I had behaved. Thankfully she accepted my apology. I walked back to the car feeling free as a bird. She walked back into her home stunned and flabbergasted.
Now you are probably wondering why God would ask me to do such a thing, especially after I had come to faith in Christ and had all my sins forgiven. I have pondered that question many times myself over the years, and the only explanation I can think of is that perhaps he wanted to see if I would be obedient as a new believer to what he asked me to do. Whatever the Lord’s reason, the experience taught me another valuable lesson that you and I both need to know in our journey with Christ. It is this: Keep short accounts with God and others. I John 1:9 tells us that “if we confess our sins, God is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” That holds true for the sins we commit against God, and for the sins we commit against others. It is so important that we not allow any stumbling block to remain in our relationship with Christ. And the sooner we confess our sins, the sooner we feel that load of guilt and shame lift off our shoulders.
I have tried to live by that valuable lesson for the past 50 years now. I admit I don’t always confess immediately, but eventually that uncomfortable feeling of conviction wins out. And as powerful as conviction is, it is always full of grace. Keeping short accounts with God and others is much easier than traveling 400 miles to make things right.