1Ti 5:24 The sins of some people are conspicuous, going before them to judgment, but the sins of others appear later.
Some people’s sins are obvious – fornication, thievery, murder, disobedience to parents – these kind are not difficult to see. But, as Paul says, there is another brand of sinner whose sins “appear later.” That doesn’t mean that such people don’t sin now but eventually will. No, it is a warning to Timothy that some people’s sins are covert and disguised. Therefore wisdom must be exercised.
Satan can appear as an angel of light, and his servants as sons of righteousness. In fact, they very often do this very thing. Many of the wicked ones we have had the unpleasant experience of crossing paths with are of this very type. And what I want to especially focus upon here is this – it can (and typically does) take a very long time to understand just what and who these people are.
This is why so many of you have written to me and said “I was in an abusive marriage for 20, 30, 40 years before I finally got free.” Why was this? Are you all stupid – am I stupid? Well, we certainly haven’t always possessed or acted upon wisdom, but the basic reason it takes so long to clearly see just what these wicked people really are is because their sin is so disguised, so confusing, so two-faced. And because we naturally believe that all other people think like we do in their fundamental suppositions.
But that was all wrong. We were wrong. We were blind. Some people’s sins appear later. Paul said that Alexander the Coppersmith did him much harm. I wonder if initially Paul trusted this guy? I don’t know for sure, but by the time he warned Timothy about him, Paul had sorted it out.
I don’t think we need to beat ourselves up about being duped by the wicked for so long. If there was any sin on our part in perhaps refusing to see what was right in front of us, well, then we confess that sin and know that the Lord forgives us. But the onus for this deception lies upon the deceiver. We trusted such people. We thought the best about them. We assumed they loved us but that they were just “difficult people” whom the Lord called us to be patient with. And we had plenty of people – friends, family, church members and pastors – adding to the fog.
But we were wrong.
Behind that mask of saintliness, inside that whitewashed tomb, lurked the real person. No empathy. No love. A consuming mentality of superiority and entitlement. A user. An oppressor. And as the mask began to slip and wisdom increasingly came our way, we started seeing that the clean, polished cup was full of filth. Often that clarity came through some very painful experiences.
But the clarity came. And once we realized just what and who we were dealing with, freedom and validation started to come our way as well. It wasn’t my fault. Those red warning lights that I saw over the years and which were squelched, started to replay in my mind and more – they started to make sense.
How could I be so stupid? Well, in some part we have to admit it was due to my failure to more carefully know and heed God’s Word, but in fact we really weren’t so stupid. It just took time – a long time – to see behind the mask.
And now we know.