Last updated on July 10, 2023
I’ll get right to the point.
When I was 18 (not too long ago) I had a short but sinful relationship with someone who was fourteen. Nothing physical but we did video-chatted naked. This was very sinful and I do believe my sins have been forgiven. I did this after I was converted, and I knew it was wrong but did it anyway. But I’ve been wondering, even if I’m not wanted for this crime, should I still report myself and turn myself in? I knew it was wrong to do and I still did it anyway, didn’t care, and eventually, I just had to block this person and cut off contact or I wouldn’t have stopped.
One aspect of repenting of sin is demonstrating a complete change in life. “For godly sorrow produces repentance leading to salvation, not to be regretted; but the sorrow of the world produces death. For observe this very thing, that you sorrowed in a godly manner: What diligence it produced in you, what clearing of yourselves, what indignation, what fear, what vehement desire, what zeal, what vindication! In all things you proved yourselves to be clear in this matter” (II Corinthians 7:10-11).
What matters most is clearing ourselves with God, yet there are many sins that are also crimes against men. While we should rectify the damage our sins may have caused, when possible, the reality is that in many cases the damage cannot be undone or even lessen.
When the Jews brought to Jesus a woman caught in the act of adultery, there was no question that the woman was involved in sin (John 8:3). Both the ones who brought her to Jesus and even Jesus, himself, stated she had sinned. The problem was that Jews who were accusing her had broken the law in two ways. One, they had only brought the woman. Though caught in the act of adultery, they did not bring the man. Second, the law required that they bring such people before the courts and they brought her to Jesus. When Jesus forced them to face their sins by what he stated, they left. “Then those who heard it, being convicted by their conscience, went out one by one, beginning with the oldest even to the last. And Jesus was left alone, and the woman standing in the midst” (John 8:9).
When Jesus and the woman were alone, Jesus asked, “Woman, where are those accusers of yours? Has no one condemned you?” (John 8:10). Though Jesus had the right to judge the woman, and though He knew what she had done, he followed the law. The law required that a crime be witnessed by two or more. In addition, the judge cannot be one of the witnesses, nor does the law require a person to be a witness against himself. Therefore, no case can be made when there were no witnesses. Jesus told her, “Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more” (John 8:11).
The woman had committed a crime that was punishable in the courts by men, but because it could not be tried by men, Jesus focused on the important part — stop sinning.
I cannot find a command that sinners whose sin also broke a civil law is required to turn themselves in. They should be aware that God will punish sinners who do not leave their sins behind. Sins don’t often stay hidden. “Evil pursues sinners, but to the righteous, good shall be repaid” (Proverbs 13:21). And nothing is hidden from God. “You have set our iniquities before You, our secret sins in the light of Your countenance” (Psalms 90:8). A person needs to repent of his sins and follow God’s will. If, as a result of his prior sins, there is later an accounting because his crime was discovered, then it must be faced at that time. But it is better to face a court of men than to face God in judgment with unwashed blood on your hands.
What you did was undoubtedly wrong. It was an act of lewdness or sensuality, and it was done to feed your lust — all of which are sins. It was also a crime by various governments’ standards. However, God doesn’t require that you turn yourself in and neither do the governments (there are laws against self-jeopardy). Anything that you do over the Internet can be recorded and, if those records come to light, you might be prosecuted. There are statutes of limitations for when a crime can be prosecuted. Unfortunately, in the United States, it varies by state and varies depending on the type of crime committed so I can’t tell you if your past might come back to haunt you. However, it is best to assume that it won’t be brought back up. Therefore, live as the Lord directs you to live.
Thank you, and God bless you!
Please pray for me that I would not ever sin in this way again, that I would not be prosecuted for it, and that if I am I accept the penalty for it.
I still feel really guilty about this. Wouldn’t it be better to turn myself in? If justice is done that’s better, right? Some other Christians would say that I should, but I’m not sure. David wasn’t punished for his crimes directly but his child was.
I feel like I’m resisting God in this, my conscience is telling me that I should, but I feel like I can live a good life out of prison. You said that God doesn’t require me to turn myself in because there is no specific commandment to do so, but what about the principle, such as in Romans 13?
You are assuming that your feelings are law. You assume that because you feel guilt for sinning in the past that this requires that you be punished immediately.
Let me give you another example. Paul, early in his life, had caused innocent people to be put to death. He felt guilty about it (I Timothy 1:13), but strangely, Jesus decided to use Paul to preach the very religion he once sought to wipe out. “It is a trustworthy statement, deserving full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, among whom I am foremost of all. Yet for this reason I found mercy, so that in me as the foremost, Jesus Christ might demonstrate His perfect patience as an example for those who would believe in Him for eternal life” (I Timothy 1:15-16). Paul was not put to death for his sins, he was saved from his sins.
You sinned. You came to realize just how bad your sins were and you stopped. I’m assuming that you have repented (I Corinthians 7:10-11) and confessed your sins to God (I John 1:9). This is what God wants. “The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance” (II Peter 3:9).
You are wanting punishment because you think that it will remove the guilt. That in some way being punished will pay for your sins. But it won’t do either of those things. Guilt is there to remind you not to repeat your sins. Punishments exist for those who refuse to believe they have sinned to face the reality of their crimes. You’ve already reached that point.
Governments were given the job to punish the evil. “For it is a minister of God to you for good. But if you do what is evil, be afraid; for it does not bear the sword for nothing; for it is a minister of God, an avenger who brings wrath on the one who practices evil” (Romans 13:4). You are no longer doing this evil. And, as I mentioned before, most countries have laws against self-incrimination. No one is expected to turn themselves in. However, as Christians, if a sin we committed in the past results in the government locating us and punishing us, then we are to cooperate. As Paul stated, “If, then, I am a wrongdoer and have committed anything worthy of death, I do not refuse to die” (Acts 25:11). But in Paul’s case, he wasn’t on trial for helping kill Christians and he didn’t bring it up because the Roman government would not have seen it as a crime and God had forgiven him.
You need to move on. “Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:13-14).