As defined by the Cambridge Dictionary, a loophole is “an opportunity to legally avoid an unpleasant responsibility, usually because of a mistake in the way rules or laws have been written.” I saw this word “Loophole” as the word of the day, and it took me back to those preschool and elementary days when my three children were young, impressionable, and teachable. As parents one of the things we wanted our children to know in real time, is the consequences resulting from each choice they make. When they were obedient, they were blessed and often rewarded with an extra book at bedtime, etc. When they were disobedient, they were punished in a way appropriate to the offense, like no reading of their favorite book at bedtime that night. Even the word “punished” can cause some reading this article now to be offended in our modern world of “loopholes.”
In my observation of Christian circles over the last forty years, the concept of confession has been poorly taught, and loosely interpreted. I know too many people who live in a world where 1 John 1:9 is used like a get-out-of-jail free card, and play it often as a loophole to presume on God’s grace with no consequences. What does this verse actually say?
If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
Like a pig who spends all day wallowing in the muddy dung floor of their stable, when we disobey God’s Word or Will, we become dirty, stinky, and unclean in God’s nostrils. There is not only a penalty (punishment) for this action, but also a consequence resulting from the action. Disobeying God’s will, in the simplest of terms even Adam came to understand in the Garden, results in (consequently) broken relationship with God. Adam could not claim there was a “mistake in the way rules or laws have been written” because God’s laws are perfect. (Psalm 119:138) And for Adam there was only one.
While there seems to be a sense at some point in the Genesis story that Adam and Eve were repentant, and God acted to cover them and save them, their confession did not take away the consequence of their actions. So, if confession is not a loophole, then what is it? I suggest the answer is found in the “attitude” of how a true Christ followers wields 1 John 1:9.
The kind of confession found in 1 John 1:9 brings with it two distinct grace born benefits to the person who comes in true repentance to the words of their confession. First, by seeing their disobedience as “sin” and owning it, when this person confesses they appropriate that forgiveness of God provided through Jesus death on the cross. This appropriation of payment for their sin is required by law. Hebrews 9:22 says, “And according to the Law, one may almost say, all things are cleansed with blood, and without shedding of blood there is no forgiveness.” (cleansing 1 John 1:9)
Second, in this attitude of true repentance, and turning back to God for their forgiveness, they not only are cleansed, but this confessing action results in restoration of their relationship with God. Once again the Christ follower can walk and talk with God in joy, peace and contentment that the relationship is no longer estranged.
Neither the appropriation of God’s cleansing grace, nor the forgiving nature of restored relationship with God, circumvent consequences that result naturally from disobedience. Sometimes the boat sinks. Sometimes cancer strikes, homes are lost, children die, wars rage, divorce papers are served, and jobs lost… and sometimes it comes as a natural result of disobedience.
True repentance, resulting in true confession, will always have cleansing restorative power in our lives.
It is not a loophole to avoid the consequences of our choices or actions.