Protestant Penance?

When I was younger I was taught that all sin is equal. Sin is sin, no matter what it is it still leads to Hell. That’s how I was raised. Is this right? Is this the way it works? Does any sin cause us to immediately fall from God’s grace entirely? Maybe, just maybe, there is more to consider here. Just think this out with me for a moment.

We must understand one thing first. There is a legal aspect to sin. There is an aspect to sin that makes us guilty no matter what. This mainly comes from original sin, but it also comes from any sin we commit. There is also a relational aspect to sin. This is where our discussion must begin. Imagine that I take two dollars from my wife’s purse and I try to hide it from her. This could be considered lying or stealing or even both. This could obviously be an issue if my wife discovers that I tried to lie to her. Now imagine I cheat on my wife with another woman. The issues would be much bigger over that situation than the first. Which problem do you think would affect my relationship with my wife more? That’s obvious, and I don’t think I need to explain why. Now imagine your relationship with God. It is a relationship that needs attention more that any other relationship we have. Imagine if I steal two dollars from my wife, or cheat on her. Each of those would affect my relationship with God in different ways. Each situation would require a different kind of attention.

The Bible tells us that if we draw near to God then He will draw near to us. This implies that there are things that God has left up to us that can strengthen our relationship with Him and draw us closer, or things that can damage the relationship and take us farther from Him (In a relationship way). If this is true than those sins we commit are the very things that can damage that relationship. This means that we must do our part to help mend that relationship.

At this point I want to break to admit that anything we do that strengthens our Relationship with God is by His grace alone, but we must make the choice to act in accordance with that grace and fully accept it. It is a costly grace that costs us our lives and obedience.

Now on with it. If there are things we can do to help mend and strengthen our relationship with God we must do them. I call these acts penance. Penance is a spiritual act of worship, submission and confession. (For those familiar with Catholicism I’m referring to Penance as a virtue, not necessarily Pence as a sacrament unless God leads you to follow it as such). Anyway, we are called to do our part in this relationship. This is more than just going to the altar and asking for forgiveness. Forgiveness covers the legal aspect, but what mends the relationship? Must we do that or leave it up to God. I recently told some teens at my church that we are called to live lifestyles of worship and this requires us to actively serve God. This is also what helps that relationship. Active service to God and to those He loves and calls us to serve. We should love penance, it is a form of disciplining our sinful behavior and the Bible says that without discipline to correct our action we are like illegitimate children. I want to be a child of God; I want to have a strong, close relationship with my Father. I may not enjoy penance, but I need it.

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One thought on “Protestant Penance?

  1. Paul,Thanks so much for discussing sin in a clear Wesleyan/Arminian way. Nicely done. I think more people need to hear about the different levels of sin and how they pertain to our relationship to God and others. Keep thinking brother!Peace T <><

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