The Benefit of Confession
While tending to my workday duties this past week I found my mind wandering down a familiar path. I had been thinking about significant people that have contributed, in one way or another, to my well being as a person. As I continued to ruminate several people came to mind that I need to reach out to. There is some important and unfinished business that needs to be recognized and tended to, and that will only happen if I initiate it.
If you live long enough sooner or later you’ll have accumulated a list. This list is an uncomfortable gathering of names of folks we’ve interacted with over the years and in some way or another the relationship has suffered because of something we have said or done. I have a list. You have a list. On that list are real persons that have experienced a legitimate offense because of something said or done by us. It may have been unintentional or it may have been overt, but because of us they have suffered the worse for something we’ve done. The cold, hard truth of it is that unless we live under a rock or in isolation in a faraway cave the nature of human interaction is prone to offense and damage and even significant breach.
What got me thinking about this is was awareness that there are those on my list that need to hear from me. In my relationship with them something I have done has made their life more difficult. I was the cause of a point of pain for them. There is only one way to make it right…I needed to confess my wrongdoing and my cause of their pain. Confession is both good for the soul and good for relationships. There are no relationships that don’t benefit from confession when wrongdoing has been done. Consider the marriage where there is no confession, nor apology. Years of hurt and heartache give way to entrenched bitterness, resentment, and eventual alienation. Consider the frustration that comes both to parents and children when there is no acknowledgment and confession that wrong has been done.
Not long ago a past acquaintance called. It came as a surprise because our relationship had soured some years before over some relatively minor differences. He was calling to confess. He was calling to make amends. He was calling to admit wrongs and to ask for forgiveness. The call went well with both of us admitting wrong and endeavoring to be reconciled. The relationship once broken is now on the mend.
The Christian life is a life dependent upon confession. Jesus’ command to repent and believe (Mark 1:15) intimates confession. The very act of repentance is an admission of wrong behavior and endeavoring to turn away from it. In fact, with the overwhelming counsel of the Bible in mind I think its safe to say that Christian confession is an indication of Christian vivification. In other words, for the Christian, confession is indicative of new life. Confession is so important and so life-giving that here’s how the New Testament writer James says it,
“…confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.”(James 5:16 ESV)
Consider James’ counsel…the process of healing (both relational and otherwise) begins with confession. Is your marriage in trouble? Perhaps the first step in the healing process begins with confession, an admission of wrong. Are your children far away from you? What would the path to restoration look like if you initiated the healing process by confession?
If we go back to foundational matters one of the ways we enter into the Christian life is through confession. If you’ve ever wondered how exactly one becomes a Christian, here’s how the New Testament writer John spells it out,
“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”(1 John 1:9 ESV)
By a humble admission of our self-inflicted alienation from God, and an earnest resolution regarding the part we’ve played in this relational breach, a promised process of forgiveness and cleansing takes place. We confess, and God forgives and cleanses.
Here’s the nub of the matter and where we often get into trouble. It’s hard to confess. We are proud. We have blind spots. We struggle to admit faults. We can’t let down our guard. After all, confession is an admission of weakness.
What I’ve often found to be true is that God gives us grace when we humbly ask for it. When I need grace to admit wrongdoing, and when I need grace to confess that I have brought pain to someone else, God promises to help. It is precisely these prayers of need and dependence that God delights to answer. God is glorified in the simplest prayer of confession and in our declaration of dependence.
I am again reminded of those on my list and I’m resolved to schedule a lunch to begin where I need to begin…with a prayer for grace, and a humble confession.
Dan and Judy Morse live near Prineville, Oregon. Over the years Dan has done many things including bi-vocational work, church planting, and serving as a senior pastor in several churches. He now works full-time in industry sales and serves with InFaith, a ministry that assists small and rural churches. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org