Historians weren’t sure if Reformer Huldrych Zwingli had been sexually promiscuous with the daughter of a prominent citizen. Misbehaving priests weren’t uncommon in the 16th century, yet such gossip seemed like something his Roman Catholic enemies might spread to discredit Zwingli.
The ambiguity lasted until the 19th century, when Johannes Schulthess discovered a letter written by Zwingli in the archives in Zurich. The Reformer’s words revealed that he had been guilty, but also that he had recommitted to living a chaste life.
Schulthess didn’t want to tarnish his hero’s legacy, so he showed the letter to his student and then held it in the flame of his candle. After a moment he had second thoughts, and he pulled the letter away to preserve what was left. He turned to his student and proclaimed, “Protestantism is the truth in all circumstances.”
It’s tempting to cover up a friend’s sin, but ultimately we’re causing more harm if we delay the inevitable. I know a missionary who sexually abused children. Rather than turn him over to the police, his missionary agency brought him home for unspecified reasons. Thirty years later, the now adult women are telling the world what he did. They’re still searching for healing, and the reputation of the man and the agency are shot.
Proverbs 28:13 states, “People who conceal their sins will not prosper, but if they confess and turn from them, they will receive mercy.” We do our friends no favors when we cover for them or excuse their sin. They need us to confront their sin and pray for their repentance. This may lead to some hard conversations, but it’s what we must do out of love. —Mike Wittmer
Read James 5:16-18 to learn what we should do with our own sins.
What embarrassing sin are you covering up for a friend? How might you confront that person in a way that respects both him or her and the person who was sinned against?