Sin begins in the mind.
“Hell is a state of mind – ye never said a truer word. And every state of mind, left to itself, every shutting up of the creature within the dungeon of its own mind – is, in the end, Hell.” CS Lewis The Great Divorce
It is a teeny tiny seed that left alone will find a place to root and then that word or two becomes a narrative, a story we tell ourselves to justify the thing we have cultivated a want for. James warns us that we are lured into sin by the desires that we conceive that eventually give birth to sin and sin, when fully grown brings death.
Because all of this happens inside our heads we like to think that sin is a private matter. But if James is right (and spoiler alert, he is) then at some point that seed produces a very visible weed.
And suddenly there is a very public nature to our private life.
We never sin in a bubble. Someone, usually more than one someone, will be affected by our sin. And it is also a solid reality that rarely, if ever, is the one who sinned the only one to pay the price for the sin.
So of course forgiveness is public in the sense that a transaction occurs between ourselves (the sinner) and the person or persons whom we have sinned against directly.
But the process of restoration is public in a much larger way. I am increasingly convinced that whether we are directly connected to the offense and the transaction of forgiveness, we all play a role in the movement toward full restoration.
Whether we are there to surround and lend strength to the one who has been weakened by sin or whether we are there to help bind up the wounds of the one sinned against, it is clear from all of the one another verses that we do these things together, as the people of God. As the family of God.
The one who sinned needs the support of others until they are strong enough to stand on their own and in due time take their place to lift up another fallen brother or sister. The other needs to be surrounded by people willing to help them keep wounds from festering or from allowing bitterness to creep in.
If we are faithful in this we are able to say, as CS Lewis says in The Great Divorce, no matter what our suffering, we have always lived in heaven.