Attitudinal Sins

What kinds of sins should we confess? What kinds of sins separate us from fellowship with God? What kind of sins did Jesus die for? The answer is the same for all three questions: all sins, every kind of sin, each sin.

I ask what kind of sins we should confess because a certain strain of defensiveness infects our hearts. This breed of defensiveness reasons and speaks about “attitudinal” sins in a way that suggests, or even asserts, that sins of attitude are untreatable.

Let’s acknowledge that we do not want to create an Attitude Bureau of sin detectives. It is not hard to imagine a Pride Gestapo getting out of hand, putting everyone in jail, then arresting themselves because they themselves were so proud to arrest proud people. The goal here isn’t to encourage quicker confrontation, but rather to encourage quicker confession.

Maybe the most protected attitudinal sin is pride and the denials are viral. “You don’t know what’s in my heart.” That’s true. We can’t know another’s heart absolutely, but what we see and hear comes from the heart, like it or not. “Everyone is proud.” That’s also true. But isn’t that an argument for recognizing sin and confessing, not against it?

Last week I read some reactions to a particular situation that’s become a very public confrontation of pride and other “heart” issues. Numerous responders seem to suggest that attitudinal sins ought to be left alone. Really?

So, as long as I don’t jab you in the throat with my “I’m #1” trophy, my anger and pride are untouchable? You’ve heard it said that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment, but I say to you, unless that anger comes out in an objective way that everyone and their mother can identify, you really can’t call it anger or hold me responsible for it.

Sin comes through word and tone, in deed and motivation, in action and attitude. We ought to be gracious toward those with attitudinal sins in the same ways we ought to be gracious with all sorts of sinners (though graciousness is not the same as silence). Even more so, we ought to be ruthless in confessing all our own sins, including attitudinal sins.

Making a petty comment is easier to mitigate than punching someone in the face. It can be touchy to deal with things that aren’t superficial and obvious. But our hearts are also tricky and would prefer to hide. If it’s sin, it should be confessed, even if it’s our attitude.