Like a metastatic cancer, sin that goes unchecked, unconfessed, and unrepented of will spread to affect the entire person. First and foremost, sin destroys the relationship between God and unregenerate people, and for the regenerate, sin disrupts the fellowship between the Lord and His children, for our transgressions grieve the Holy Spirit (Eph. 4:30). Beyond that, however, sin also has pervasive effects on the entire psyche. Paranoia and fear consume the man or woman who gives into sin impenitently.
That is the point of today’s passage, which tells us that “the wicked flee when no one pursues” (Prov. 28:1a). Anyone who has battled secret sin understands the truth of this statement. Try as we might to believe that what we do in secret does not matter and that living our lives apart from God means we can cast off the fear of the Lord that gripped “less enlightened” generations, we all know that impenitent sin fosters terror in the heart. We know that our Creator keeps His eyes on all, watching for the evil and the good (15:3). Though we try to ignore this truth, we cannot escape it, for it is written on our consciences (Rom. 2:12–16). Because we know God really can see everything, repeated, impenitent sin, particularly repeated secret sin, sustains in us the kind of fear that stalks us and threatens to overtake us. We worry that God will expose us, and then we transfer His all-seeing nature to those around us. We grow paranoid that others can see what we have tried so hard to hide, and we withdraw from our relationships. We begin to believe that everyone is watching us, and we do not like it. Matthew Henry comments, “Those that have made God their enemy, and know it, cannot but see the whole creation at war with them, and therefore can have no true enjoyment of themselves, no confidence, no courage, but a fearful looking for of judgment. Sin makes men cowards.”
Ironically, we sin because we believe we do not have to fear God, and then end up fearing other people. On the other hand, the righteous, because they fear the Lord appropriately with filial honor and not cowering terror, end up being afraid of no man. “The righteous are as bold as a lion” (Prov. 28:1b). They need not worry being found out by other people because there is nothing to be found out. Whatever sin they have, they have confessed. There are no secret sins to ruin righteous people, so righteous men and women can face others with boldness, not worrying about what their enemies will reveal about them.