Is the Sound of God's Voice
When We Sin?
by Sam Williamson
I once told a friend of a recurring
temptation of mine. Over the next month, he
shared my secret with a dozen other friends,
spicing up the tale with the fib that I had yielded
to the temptation—even though I hadn’t. His
betrayal shocked me. I skipped several lunch and
dinner appointments, unsure who had heard and
what they thought.
His disclosure also angered me. I obsessed
over his treachery: How could he have
divulged my secret temptation? And why
worsen my shame with the sneering
proclamation I had done it! I would never
have betrayed a friend like that.
One day, as I fumed over his
relational-adultery, I sensed God’s voice
speak into my seething self-pity: Sam,
why are you so angry? I thought the
answer obvious: My friend had stabbed
me in the back! Then I remembered
“I tell you, when
one sinner repents, there is joy among the
angels of God.” (Luke 15:10)
I thought, Sure, I suppose there would
be joy in heaven if this jerk (I mean,
friend) repented. His public confession
might even bring me a bit of joy here on
And I sensed God say, “I’m not talking about
his sin; I’m talking about yours.”
But we hate to
admit our own wrongs
What’s so bad about what I did? My friend actively
told people of my faults, I only thought
But my thinking was equally active.
I wholeheartedly imagined friends discovering
his duplicity, and I visualized his
humiliation. I poked pins in my mental image
of him, and I caricaturized him: he hadn’t
just broken faith, he was faithless;
he hadn’t just lied, he was a liar.
Imagining his crimes was like enjoying a
feast. I savored every mental morsel. I
relished each thought. The very idea of his
eventual discovery tasted like desert.
A recent Facebook post claimed that
Christians no longer need to repent. The
writer said, “We have already died to sin
[Rom. 6:2]. So how can a dead man repent?”
But when we reject personal repentance, we
reject a chance to hear God’s voice.
What does God’s
voice sound like when we sin?
We tend to think God speaks only to the
Mother Teresa’s of this world. But that notion
is just false. Think of Adam and Eve’s first
sin of all time. Every evil you’ve ever seen
or experienced—every rape, betrayal,
ethnic-cleansing, and marginalization—resulted
from their action.
But God didn’t send an avenging angel to wipe
them out. He didn’t stew over their betrayal
nor simmer in his wrath. Instead, God
came to the Garden for conversation.
Before that first sin, we see God speaking to
himself (“Let us make man in our image”) and
giving direction (“You can eat of any tree but
one”). After their world-changing sin, we see
God initiating conversation with a question:
“Adam and Eve, where are you?” It’s the
pattern of God, pursuing the lost us with kind
- He asks Cain, “Where is your brother?”
after Cain murdered Abel;
- He asks Job, “Where were you when I formed
the earth?” after Job doubts God’s justice;
- And he asks Jonah, “Are you right to be so
angry?” as he smoldered in self-pity.
What does God’s voice sound like when we sin?
Invitational. He seeks a divine dialogue with
us even when we stumble.
We hear his voice
then join the party
Jesus tells of a shepherd who leaves
ninety-nine sheep to look for the one stupid
sheep that ran away. He concludes: “I tell
you, there will be more joy in heaven over one
sinner who repents than over ninety- nine
righteous persons who need no repentance”
Our repentance ignites a feast of celebration
We don’t need to wait for personal perfection
before we hear God’s voice. We need only be
willing to listen as God ask us, “Where are
you?” and “Why are you so angry?”
When we admit, “I’m stewing on the wrongs of
others,” and “I care more for the world’s
praise than yours,” we begin to participate in
this divine dialogue, and we sit down to a
Maybe we’ll see that friend who wronged us;
together we can toast to our own stupidity.
© Copyright 2016, Beliefs
the Heart, Ltd. All rights reserved.
Williamson grew up in Detroit, Michigan,
USA. He is the son of a Presbyterian pastor
and grandson of
missionaries to China. He moved to Ann
Arbor, Michigan in 1975. He worked in London
England from 1979 to 1982, helping to
a member community of the Sword of the
Spirit. After about twenty-five years as an
executive at a software company in Ann Arbor
he sensed God call him to something new. He
left the software company in 2008 and now
speaks at men’s retreats, churches, and
campus outreaches. His is married to Carla
Williamson and they have four grown children
and a grandson. He has a blog site, www.beliefsoftheheart.com,
and can be reached at