Why confession of sins is deliverance
"If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness." (1.John 1,9, NIV)
My dear friends, dear women of God,
we have a deep-rooted desire to run away from the admission of failure.
Tracy Chapman once sang in a song, "Sorry is all that you can't say. Years gone by and still words dont come easily- like sorry, like sorry."
Somehow we are like that not only in relation to God, but also or especially in relation to each other. We evade, we gloss over, we explain away, we justify ourselves. We didn't know any better, it's not that bad, everybody does it - and everybody has to look at his own responsibility. If nothing helps anymore - then it was the snake, then it was Satan, and we don't let ourselves be called to account.
I believe that this is due to the fact that, especially in the Christian sphere, the recognition and confession of sins are overused and associated with a lot of what we call works righteousness. At some point you really - frankly and honestly - have no need at all for the admonishing, criticizing, unloving brothers and sisters who always know better, who so clearly smell a demon behind every bush and really go out on a limb with their sometimes not even correct interpretations.
The finger-pointing mentality is a completely life-killing affair that would be immediately stopped in any workplace because it would be classified as bossing, bullying and completely inappropriate invasion of the other person's privacy.
Previously mentally healthy people are leaving communities sick and confused because of this behavior- and still, still the fire arrows are being aimed at each other. "You must! You are unholy! You are unacceptable! You crucify Jesus again!" Uffz. No, that's certainly not what Paul meant when he spoke of exhortation.
Exhortation is reminding people of the truth, and referred mainly to those who converted other Christians. In Hebrews 8:11 we read:
"And no man shall teach his fellow-citizen, nor any man his brother, saying, Know the Lord. For all of them, small and great, will know me. 12 For I will be merciful to their iniquities, and their sins I will remember no more."
Yet Christians convert Christians, it seems, in complete rigidity of fear before the all-powerful Satan, instead of being grounded in love and grace. And much that is classified as unforgivably sinful is, in addition, the pitiless church law, colored by one's own creed, which represents "the only true church of Christ," not biblical sin.
All this has led to more and more Christians unlearning how valuable forgiveness is. Recognition of sin is equated with self-mortification, which finds its equivalent in those harnesses of thorns and self-flagellations that used to be common in hardline monasteries.
But forgiveness, it is help. But to say sorry-it is to esteem the other higher than oneself. It is admitting one's own fallibility - nothing more. If I hide where I have failed, then that failure traps me in an endless loop of avoidance. The darkness will envelop me, the bad conscience will rage- and I will dull- because I know exactly that I am only pretending, only trying to hide a red wine stain on the expensive carpet by putting a runner over it and claiming that it belongs there. Always with the fear that it will be discovered one day.
Why do we hide?
Because we rarely or never experience that the result of a confession of sin is something other than our free ticket to personal hell.
We have experienced far too often what happens to those who openly confess to having sinned: They admit it, and are deprived of their offices. They experience church shunning, and love withdrawal. They experience the collapse of all that they have built. Not "because God wants it that way", but because of a corrosive, slobbering and aggressive-lustful idea of punishment, because of which people used to celebrate public executions. Murderousness. Schadenfreude. Power. Ruling. Self-elevation. And...better him than me!
Jesus is different, and we should be different, if we want to be truly and seriously his living letter.
When I know that I can go to my boss without him putting me down, without him firing me, without him leaving me out in the cold when I screw up, but instead expecting his wise counsel, his protection, his seal on me- then it is easy for me to go to him with my already existing frustration of having screwed up. It is relieving to say- "I screwed up, you. I just can't do it! I've really hit the wall, and others are suffering because of it, oh, what unspeakable crap! Please forgive me. I'm sorry. I failed myself. Will you help me? Because I can't get out of myself. I know my behavior is wrong, but I can't fix it, no matter how hard I try. Again and again, and I'm afraid that you'll get tired of it. "
To experience that the answer is a loving and friendly one, that patience and attention meet me, and I may learn with his help - that is a true gift.
When someone who has wronged me apologizes, it heals the wound. Then it costs more greatness than hiding it and wiping it away would ever do.
That we should confess our sins to one another - you know:
I think it's about all the occasions when we don't do justice to each other and hurt each other. It's about talking things out, it's about settling disputes, it's about maintaining unity among ourselves. So that we can eat together- and grow from each other. It's not about saying, "Yeah, well, I forgive him!" and then getting out of his way. Then- we have not forgiven, because forgiveness means- reconciliation, as far as it is possible. Of course, no one asks a beaten wife to stay with her husband when he repents and beats her black and blue the next day. Forgiveness always entails repentance, and sometimes illnesses and roots of bitterness are so deep that it is better to separate. But the guilt that we carry - burdens both.
The cross for Christians: it no longer decides salvation or not. It is our touchstone, our hope, our correction, our growth. We should kneel often.
We should often ask for forgiveness. And for wisdom, clarity and peace for new ways. Only in this way we grow. And what do we have to fear?
We will meet love and kindness. Truth and wisdom. And a God who hears when we ask for help - and who will grant it in abundance.
And the brothers and sisters?
Those who will then pick on us, bash us, and beat us with zealous arrogance? Who will punish us and talk disparagingly about us?
Let them put their own house in order. For those who act in this way have never understood love and true grace. For forgiveness is our way home.
Sibylle/Daughter of Zion