Wednesday, September 28, 2011

on confession

"Confess your sins to one another and pray for each other that you may be healed."
James 5:16

"If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.  If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us of our sins and purify us of all unrighteousness."
1 John 1:8-9

Here's my confession:  I don't practice confession nearly enough.

Not to God, not to anyone else.

Somewhere along the line in my evangelical, Protestant upbringing, confessing daily sin seemed to take the back-burner to so many other things.  Sin-confession seemed to be reserved for "The Big Prayer," and that was it.

I find this to be a problem for two reasons:

  1. God tells us to make a habit of confessing -- to Him and to others.  Even Jesus, when he taught us to pray, included confession of sins.
  2. It's destructive for us if we do not confess, and God is not given any glory for those who cover up their sin.
Living in community has taught me a lot about confession and the potential destruction when it is absent.  Since our lives are usually very independent of one another, it's easy to harbor ill-feelings toward someone.  If you don't live with them day-in and day-out, there just seems to be no reason to rock the boat (especially if you're non-confrontational like me).  But when you live in community, harboring such feelings can become very destructive.  At least in my case, I tend to get very snippy.  I react.  I become indignant and self-righteous.

When I confess, I am humbled.  I let go.  I receive peace and healing.
And my relationships are restored.

Non-confession also breeds an atmosphere of deceit.  Sometimes the sins we have to confess do not directly relate to another human being, but are mainly destructive to ourselves.  Sometimes they are so dark and deep, that we feel we are not free to confess to anyone but God.  We are (rightly) ashamed of our sin, and so we (wrongly) hide it.

1 Peter 5:8 says, "Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour."  Now, it may just be me, but I think it's a lot easier to be devoured by a lion when you're hiding in the bush next to it.

Let's review that James passage again.  We should confess to one another so that we may be healed.  Confession is not left to "The Big Prayer" of salvation, and then forgotten about.  It's part of the whole discipleship process.  The passage goes on to say, "The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.  Elijah was a human being, even as we are.  He prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the land for three and a half years."

If you do not confess to another person, your prayers for healing will lay on your own shoulders.  If you do not share the burden with another, no one else will know how to pray for you.  The power of the sin will continue to wreak havoc as long as you keep it covered up and pretend like nothing is wrong.  We should confess so that the power will belong to Christ.  We should renounce our sin publicly to another, as if to proclaim, "This is sin, it has no place in my life, and I want freedom from it."

The glory will belong to God when others know about how He is helping us conquer our sins.
God is given no glory when we cover up our humanness.
We will also be revealed to be hypocrites if we pretend that we are perfect.

So really -- what's the purpose of not confessing?

I would love to hear from you:  how do you practice confession in your life?  What are the benefits you have seen from confessing, or the problems you have seen from not confessing?

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