Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Sin and repentance: equally notorious

Charles Spurgeon, from pages 13-14 of his Lectures to My Students:
As John Angell James remarks, "When a preacher of righteousness has stood in the way of sinners, he should never again open his lips in the great congregation until his repentance is as notorious as his sin."
This is spoken of pastors, but shouldn't it apply all around? Shouldn't the sphere of confession and restitution at least equal breadth and depth of the sphere of infamy and scandal?


Tom said...

I think that's a toughy. Take Ted Haggard f'rinstance. His "repentance" has been all over the place, as much or greater than his sin. I'd say he certainly has both a notorious sin and repentance. But I don't buy it.

So publicity (which notoriety implies) of repentance is not the issue. It can't be. Rather, the sinner should be as offended by his own sin and as repentant of it of the sin himself. Whether this repentance is "notorious" enough is besides the point. How would one measure that anyway?


DJP said...

Fair point, Tom.

So here's a useful distinction: James is saying that a fallen man's repentance should be as notorious — not his use of the word "repent."

As I would say that a man is saved through faith alone — not through saying that he has faith.

Tom said...

Amen. Saying one repents is hardly the same as actually repenting.

I wonder if "notorious" is really the right word because it carries connotation of public opinion. Perhaps a better word would be that one's repentance should be as "serious" or "intense" as his sin -- something along those lines. Or perhaps the genuine fruit of repentance should be as notorious as the sin. The "notrious-ness" of repentance, by itself, can't be publicly measured, so it's kind of hard to to say it should be as notorious as the sin.

I'm picky, I know!

Rachael Starke said...

My 8 y.o. and I had a great discussion the other day after she had been marked wrong on her vocabulary paper when she defined "repent" as "to say you have done wrong." We talked about confession being done with our lips, and repentance being done with the rest of our bodies.

I wonder if the modern world and church hasn't corrupted the word "notorious" because there's just so much more sin to "make known" (which is how the OED first defines) than there is true, bodily repentance. In Mr. Haggard's case, it pretty much looks like there's none.

But if there was, he and the church would have to work five times as hard to make his repentance as truly "notorious" as the world would continue to make his sin.

It's a good reminder that I when I see someone really growing in holiness, I need to speak up, to them and to others.

As long as I put a hat on first...

Anonymous said...

Is there a bigger standard for Pastors than others?

Oh, and the apostles were 'notorious' so was Jesus....:)

Aaron said...

I've often pondered the subject of repentance and restitution. Obviously saying you're sorry doesn't make it so. But sometimes I find that showing repentance and offering restitution is limited. I mean, how do I offer repentance and restitution for the multitude of sins (some more serious than others) I committed years before I was saved?

Sheldon said...

Sounds similar to what Paul wrote about in 2 Corinthians 7:10-11. Godly sorrow is what we are aiming for I believe. He doesn't specifically mention doing it publicly, but I think if the sin is public, the Godly sorrow should be made public as well.

~Mark said...

I like that quote, and it has teeth.

I've discussed this topic many times and few people have been able to quantify the issue so well. When do you restore a leader to his place after falling? DO you restore a leader to his place after he has fallen?

I think if he becomes as notorious for his repentance as his sin, that's a pretty good gauge. (With much prayer of course!)

~Mark said...

Regarding non-leaders, the need for clear repentance is as great, but their level of public influence (thus the level at which their repentance needs to be proven) is likely smaller.

The heart need is equally great, but the demonstration of it requires less.

Kinda like if the president of the company calls off sick there will be different repercussions than if the new guy in the housekeeping staff calls off sick. Repercussions still, but different in effect and scope.

Sheldon said...

James does say that the judgment for teachers is stricter than that for other believers so it seems to follow that the repentance be more obviously real. Since as teachers we are teaching when we repent, we should be able to demonstrate what true repentance consists of, not only in our teaching but also in practice when necessary.