Confession. Perhaps, for you, this term invokes images of a person sitting in a little, boxed-off room talking to a weary priest. Or maybe you immediately thought of an awful memory where you were forced (literally) to stand up in front of your peers and “fess up” to some prank, impropriety, or foolish decision. Gulp. That’s probably happened to the best of us at some point – even though we’d rather not admit it.
The term confession is sort of a dirty word these days. Some of us may remember Bill Clinton’s infamous “confession” about his relationship with a certain White House intern. Others may recall the numerous media-hyped confessions of various televangelists and celebrity pastors. Scandal and humiliation seem to fit “hand-in-glove” with public confession. And so we often shy away from confessing our mistakes, faults, and failures. Instead we choose to keep our issues privatized in the confines of the unwritten journal between us and God.
Yet confession is biblical. Confession, both personal and corporate, is woven into nearly every page of Scripture. The faults, failures, and mistakes of revered men and women in the Bible are hung out on a laundry line for all to see. Some of them admitted their sinfulness, while others tried to cover up their issues with a guise of piety. But in the end, it’s all there for us to see. The shocking honesty of the Bible is one of the greatest proofs for it’s validity and authenticity.
But still, most Christians try to hide their mistakes. I know I have… over and over again. No wonder people outside of Christianity see very little authenticity and sincerity in our lives. That’s the word I hear on the street, anyhow.
Yet open, honest confession is an action we are specifically encouraged to demonstrate as God’s people. The apostle James wrote to believers scattered around the Mediterranean area:
“Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed. The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much.” (James 5:16).
The context of James’ exhortation here is specifically related to physical illness. Nevertheless, the action of open confession is something all believers should practice on a regular basis. Healing and unity within the body of Christ comes only by the work of the Spirit through sincere humility; the kind of humility that openly confesses failure, faultiness, and sin.
Imperfect. For a slightly obsessive-compulsive perfectionist like me, it’s rather difficulty to let that adjective exit my mouth. But that’s what we all are: imperfect. You may be closer to “perfect” than me, but you and I are still less than perfect. And who has the “perfect” measuring stick anyway? Does this mean we just throw in the toil and forget about excellence and a strong work-ethic? Certainly not. God clearly directs us to live hard-working, disciplined lives.
However, if our pursuit of excellence becomes clothed with a facade that denies our imperfections, then we have fallen into a trap that’s void of humility. Suddenly we lose patience with others because we have forgotten how unbelievably patient God has been with us. We quickly become irritated with people who seem less-organized, less-thoughtful, less-disciplined, less-educated, less-mature, less-loving… less-perfect than us. And we forget the path God has so very patiently guided us down, year after year.
Pastor Tullian Tchividjian painted a shockingly accurate portrait of how this often plays out in the church,
“Instead of a hospital for sufferers, church becomes a glorified costume part, where lonely men and women tirelessly police each other’s facade of holiness. The higher up in the pecking order, the less room for weakness. Perhaps it should come as no surprise when we read headlines of pastors of legalistic churches acting out in self-destructive ways (Rom. 5:20).” [from “Glorious Ruin: How Suffering Sets you Free” pg. 79-80]
So I encourage you not to think about confession as being always linked with scandal, loss-of-reputation, or embarrassment, but instead to consider confessing your imperfections as a place of refuge. You see, humility isn’t throwing yourself on the sword of eternal humiliation; it’s finding refuge and peace in relinquishing your right to always be right… or perfect (see Proverbs 3:7-8; 12:15; 22:4).
So let’s choose to be radically honest with one other. Confess your imperfections, faults, and sins. Receive the confessions and imperfections of others with grace and humility. I think we’ll be shocked by the healing, unity, and peace God will bring.
Paul reminded the church in Colossae about the same need for open confession and humility when he wrote:
“So as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience; bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you. Beyond all these things put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity.” (Colossians 3:12-14)
Let’s walk in the love of God as we openly confess our imperfections, for the sake of unity and God’s great glory.
Here’s My Confession: I am that Hypocrite. Click on this link to read my confession: http://www.graceexposed.org/2012/12/08/i-am-that-hypocrite/ or simple locate the article entitled “I am that Hypocrite.”
Michael J. Breznau – 12.14.2012