Remember, the sins of some people are obvious, leading them to certain judgment. But there are others whose sins will not be revealed until later. (1 Timothy 5:24)
One of the dangers we face in living out our faith in front of those we are leading is that we make it all about appearances. We look for ways to sound spiritual and look holy.
We learn to say the right things and to drop in some Christian jargon and a little theology - just enough to impress people into thinking we know what we're talking about? We may struggle with doubts but we dare not air these. When asked a question that we're unsure of we bluff our way through, and when people are going through hard things we quote verses in order to avoid walking through their pain with them.
Similarly, we can easily become hyper-sensitive about how others see us. We master a degree of self-control that eliminates most outward sins we might be tempted to commit while in the company of those we lead. We teach and talk about obedience in a manner that implies "If I can do it then so can you!"
Yet amidst all this outward "show", most leaders admit to times of struggling with doubt and sin. The "obvious" sins are largely under control but there are deeper sins that, for now at least, remain "hidden".
In addressing this situation, Paul reminds Timothy that there are sins that "will not be revealed until later". None of us who read this are likely to be particularly pleased about this prediction! What is Paul meaning?
Well ultimately, of course, he means that when we stand before Christ, nothing will be hidden from Him. The good, the bad and the downright ugly will be laid bare. Fortunately, our eternal destiny will not depend on hoping the good outweighs the bad. Just one shred of "bad" (which we all have) is enough to send us into a Christless eternity. Praise God that through the cross of Jesus, judgement is not a question of "are we good enough?" but is Christ, our substitute, good enough?
The resurrection demonstrates He is!
However, there is another sense in which the revealing of sins will occur "later". No matter how hard you might pretend to be someone you're not, leadership has a way of eventually causing you to confront and admit to your own failings. Sin will limit your effectiveness and endurance and it will put you in situations where you are forced to confront your inner sins or they are likely to become public.
By far the best way of having these hidden sins revealed is to choose to do it ourselves. It's not necessarily, or even helpful, to share your detailed struggles and sins with those you lead, but it is important to be honest enough to admit that you don't have it all together and you still struggle with sin.
Sharing these struggles is unlikely to cause people to think less of you. They may even admire you for your honesty and in the process you'll make it safe for them to talk with you about their own struggles.
A second way to bring sin to light is to confide in wise and godly people you respect who won't judge you but will offer love, counsel and accountability. Having these people in your life makes it easier to confront, not just the outward sins but the deeper ones such as anger, pride, lust and selfishness. It won't be easy or comfortable but it is preferable to struggling away on your own only to publicly fail and be shamed.
What are the areas of sin I struggle with that may not be evident to those I lead?
Who is there I can confide in who will encourage me and pray for me?