Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Keeping Your Buts Out of Your Confessions

Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed.

--James 5:16

Confession is not to be used as a means of deflection. “Hey, can’t you see I am hammering myself here? That means you can’t touch me.” Some people are like a puppy that knows he is about to be disciplined, so lies on his back. “Ha, Ha, can’t touch me now!”

Downplaying by comparison also has no part in an authentic confession. “Okay, I know what I did to you was wrong, but I am nowhere near as bad as those guys. Did you see what he did in my circumstances?” Right. You are only a run-of-the-mill offender. No doubt God and the offended will feel so relieved.

Along this same line of thought—Keep your “buts” out of any confession. Whatever you say before the word “but” will be negated by what follows your “but.” I know I was wrong but your faults tripped me up, I was so tired, hurt, frustrated, in a bad place, lonely, blah, blah, I was wrong but it wasn’t all my fault blah.  Not exactly oozing with contrition here, are we. All this is is a defense under the guise of a confession, seeking to mitigate the penalties of your offense.

The purpose of confession is not so that you can feel better about yourself, get your spouse off your back, or convince your constituents you are still fit for office. “Coming clean,” as an end game, is not a confession: it’s only a calculated admission.

Confession needs to be down to the depths of the offense. Asking you to forgive me for not keeping my promise to be on time to a party you were throwing is different from confessing that I betrayed your trust and stole from you. Too many people’s confessions of egregious offenses sound as if they merely stepped on the offended party’s toes. Confession minus an appropriate and genuine contrition leaves us mired in our offense and the offended wondering if we had a clue as to how deeply he was wounded.

Confession is to “each other.” This is broader than only confessing to the offended party. Here, James is telling us that confession includes having people in our lives with whom we lay it all out. I have a group of people in my life who know every fall, fault, flame out, and failure there is to know about me. It’s all too easy to go to God about my “issues,” but never confess to others. If God is the only one I confess to, how do I know if I have gone deeply enough? How will I know if I am actually being too hard on myself? How will I know if I am hammering on a smaller offense so as to hide from a larger one? How do I know if my confession to God-alone isn’t actually riddled with vanity and the fear of what others will think of me? And, James again, if I don’t share with others then there are no “righteous” people who will be standing with me, praying for me, and holding me accountable, as I seek to make amends and change my behavior or attitudes. If you don’t have such friends, pray for some. And in the mean time find a trusted minister or spiritual advisor with whom you can confess.

Notice that James writes of how healing comes with confessing our failures to each other. How many of us are suffering with emotional or physical infirmities because we are all twisted up by what we have hidden? I am convinced that many of those who are in and out of counseling, yet never seem to be free or healed, actually don’t need therapy as much as they need to go and reveal what is hidden by confessing what they have done and left undone.

Why is it that confession is so difficult for us? I’m sure there are a number of underlying reasons: pride, fear of consequences, and hardness of heart, come to mind. Yet I wonder if an overarching reason is our view of God. “Man, if I tell Him this, He is going to blow a gasket.” Helloooo? An unsuspecting omniscient God is an oxymoron. The New Testament revelation of God in Christ is clear. When we confess our sins to each other it is to and before the God who, like the father of the Prodigal Son, continually and lovingly looks for our return, when He will give mercy, forgiveness, and healing to the penitent confessor—and then throw us a party!  

Copyright, Monte E Wilson, 2014

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