Personal Foul–1 John 1:10

If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word has no place in our lives. — 1 John 1:10

We’re in the middle of March Madness, a basketball tournament designed to make the fans of sixty-four teams feel lousy while making one set of fans feel great. So far, my favorite has survived into the round of sixteen. One of the things that always amuses me about basketball is the reactions of players to fouls. Some players take the foul call with grace, but many of them have a look of utter disbelief when the whistle blows for them. Some of these guys could throw some sort of flying body block into an opponent and then look, mouth agape, at the referee when the foul is called. “Me?” they ask before breaking into a huge smile that says, “Those crazy refs!”

Today’s verse is yet another of John’s “if” statements. These last three all deal with our admission of sin. Of course, yesterday’s verse, 1 John 1:9, has been memorized by generations of believers, but its importance is underscored by these two framing if’s. Twice John says “If we claim we have not sinned.” Why? Because like basketball players, we tend to deny our sins.

Referees are accustomed to being second guessed. They expect every decision to be questions, criticized, and condemned by half of the coaches, players, and fans watching. I suppose that’s how God feels as well. How many people on this earth go through their day immediately responding to the divine whistle, raising their hand, and saying, “Yeah, that was me”?

You don’t claim never to have sinned, do you? Of course not, but you probably, like me, claim that certain deeds are not really sins. Does that make God out to be a liar any less than claiming we don’t sin? We need only look to Isaiah 64:6 to see just how warmly God considers our sins. The call of God on our lives is not necessarily to banish all sin from ourselves. While such an end is desirable, it’s not expected. Acknowledgment of all our sin, however, is both desirable and expected.