If we claim we have no sin, we are only fooling ourselves and not living in the truth. But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness. If we claim we have not sinned, we are calling God a liar and showing that his word has no place in our hearts. [1 John 1:8-10 (NLT)]
When the woman joined our group at the work table, she told us, “I got a late start so I was speeding to get here. I decided that if a cop stopped me, I’d just tell him I was doing the Lord’s work and, since God will forgive me, he should too.” When I questioned her reasoning, she insisted that speeding for a godly purpose was a justifiable offense and, since God offers forgiveness, so should the police. Granted, we were doing God’s work by packing food for the needy but, as the Blues Brothers learned when they saved the orphanage, a mission from God is not a “Get Out of Jail Free” card.
Short of rushing someone to hospital in a life or death situation, I’m not sure there is a valid excuse for speeding. While the bags we filled with rice and beans could be considered life-saving, we were packing food all morning so there was nothing urgent about the task. If the woman’s speeding had caused an accident or injury, would she still have thought her mission from God was a valid excuse for breaking the law?
When we offer our confession to God, I wonder if we’re like this woman. I know I am. Rather than a contrite confession, we often offer a litany of excuses along with our transgressions: I wasn’t to blame, I didn’t mean it, there were extenuating circumstances, I forgot, it was the only way, I meant well, no harm done, I didn’t know, it was an accident, and so on. Although being on a “mission from God” is not an excuse for sin or law-breaking, part of the woman’s theology is correct. She’s right that God will forgive her but she was totally wrong about why. God doesn’t forgive us because of our good works or great excuses. It is only by God’s grace and our faith in Jesus that we are forgiven.
God’s not interested in excuses because there is no excuse for sin; what He wants is a sincere and penitent heart. Although it’s easier to spot other people’s sins than to look deep into the darkness of our own souls, we must be brutally honestly about our transgressions. Until we recognize and admit them, we’re not likely to repent of them. It is when we truthfully look at our sins, when we contemplate how pitiful and unworthy we are, when we offer our failures in their naked ugliness without excuse, that we can truly understand how loving, compassionate, generous, and forgiving our God really is. It is only then that we truly appreciate the gift Jesus gave us on the cross.