Living a Double Life

Question from a Site Viewer
I really enjoyed reading your article on confessing sin, and it really made me see things in a different light. I, too, once thought that disclosure of everything would bring healing, but see the possibility that it is not always so. However, there was one paragraph that confused me–the one about living a double life. Whatever sin we committed, as you mentioned, can be and will be forgiven by God if we confess to Him and repent. What did you mean about a double life? Because you also mentioned that there is no need to confess our sins in detail to others, unless we choose to. I would really appreciate you clearing this up for me.

Tim’s Answer
Thanks for your question. In our article on confessing sin, we said:

From my perspective, the important thing is having confessed to God and turned from the sin to follow Jesus. It is also important not to live a double life. If our sin has disqualified us from certain positions in the church, we should not hold such positions. And if our sin has wronged another and they know about the wrong, then I think God calls on us to confess our sin to them and seek their forgiveness (See Leviticus 5:1-5; Luke 17:3-4). If they do not know about the wrong, then I think it is important to do the thing that is most loving. If it is most loving to confess our wrong, then we should confess. If it is most loving not to burden the person with our wrong, then we should confess only to God.

You raise a question about what me mean when we speak of a double life. A double life is when we pretend to be one thing and we are another thing. If I have struggled with a particular sin, I do not have a duty to tell everyone I meet that I have struggled with that sin. But neither may I live life like I have never struggled with sin. If I did so, I would be guilty of hypocrisy. I am informed by the Apostle Paul. He had committed some grave sins. Years later, he writes to Timothy and in 1 Timothy 1 he fully admits, not in graphic detail, but in general ways that he was the chief of sinners. Paul does not pretend that he was always perfect. Rather, he lets us know that he also lived less than a perfect life but that God saved him and that his life was transformed by Christ. He could tell the Corinthians to imitate him as he imitated Christ (1 Corinthians 11:1), precisely because his life had been changed. We likewise should not pretend to be something that we have not been. While we do not need to disclose all, we cannot pretend that we have not been sinners in the past.

Suppose I apply for a job that requires a high level of financial trustworthiness. The form says that if I have ever stolen from someone in the past 10 years, I need to disclose that fact and it will disqualify me from the job. Just because I am forgiven and no one will ever know does not mean that I can complete the from and not disclose a past theft. I cannot simply pretend it never happened. If I did so, I would be living a double life, pretending to be someone that I am not.

I see people who are really condemning of others who have sinned; yet I know that they have sinned in similar ways. Simply because they are forgiven does not mean that they can now pretend like they never so sinned. They should not act as if they have never done such a thing. Rather, they should act as one who has been there and has compassion and wishes to restore the erring brother or sister.

In another situation where double lives often reach the news, we have pastors and spiritual leaders who pretend to be spiritual but inwardly they are corrupted. When they are exposed, they cause great reproach to the cause of Christ. It is far better if one is in such a position and finds themselves disqualified because of something they did, to step down. I do not believe that it is always necessary for them, when they step aside, to give a reason for leaving their job. Sometimes, it is enough that God knows and that they are honest with God. But they should not pretend to have the qualifications to serve in the position when they do not. Such pretending is a double life.

We should live our lives without guile or deceit. This does not mean that we need to expose all of our evils for everyone to see, anymore than we should expose every thing good we do for all to see. But we should live lives of integrity, so that what people see is the Christ-life lived out in our lives. It is this simplicity of life, exposing the authentic you without guile or hypocrisy, that is both pleasing to God and a blessing to people.

I hope this helps. Sometimes others want to know all of the gory details of past sin. I think it is seldom right to give them that satisfaction. It is enough to say that we have sinned. And if a certain person, because of their relationship with us, has a need to know about a particular sin, it is enough to let them know we have sinned in that way, without again revisiting the whole nasty affair. In this way, we can be authentic without being sensational and we can be loving without diving back into the details of past sins. I encourage people to live life forward, not backwards. We should seek to follow Christ today and press into Him. The fruit of the Spirit comes to those who walk with Him.

May the Lord Jesus bless you as you seek to understand the truth of His word.

a fellow pilgrim,

tim

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