Nowadays, we talk about transparency. But for centuries, it was called confession. It’s the idea of telling another Jesus-follower your failures and misdeeds. Confessing sin to one another was a huge part of the early church and perhaps a big part of its profound power and influence. Over the years, private confession to a priest replaced public confession. He was safe . . . faceless and anonymous. It’s generally easier to confess to a professional than to a regular person, especially a friend . . . someone you’ll see often and you fear may judge you for your failures. But Christian community was (and is) the best place for bringing our darkest stuff into the light. Here’s a piece from Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s Life Together . . .
“In confession there takes place a breakthrough to community. Sin wants to be alone with people. It takes them away from the community. The more lonely people become, the more destructive the power of sin over them. The more deeply they become entangled in it, the more unholy is their loneliness. Sin wants to remain unknown. It shuns the light. In the darkness of what is left unsaid sin poisons the whole being of a person. This can happen in the midst of a pious community. In confession the light of the gospel breaks into the darkness and closed isolation of the heart. Sin must be brought into the light. What is unspoken is said openly and confessed. All that is secret and hidden comes to light. It is a hard struggle until the sin crosses one’s lips in confession. But God breaks down gates of bronze and cuts through bars of iron (Ps. 107:16). Since the confession of sin is made in the presence of another Christian, the last stronghold of self-justification is abandoned. The sinner surrenders, giving up all evil, giving the sinner’s heart to God and finding the forgiveness of all one’s sin in the community of Jesus Christ and other Christians. Sin that has been spoken and confessed has lost all of its power. It has been revealed and judged as sin. It can no longer tear apart the community.”
Confessing to God in private or to an anonymous person might make us feel better, but it doesn’t always help us do better. To quote John Lynch from The Cure . . .
“What if there was a place so safe that the worst of me could be known, and I would discover that I would not be loved less, but more in the telling of it?”
It’s counterintuitive but public confession . . . confession among Jesus-followers, yields respect, not shame. We connect with each other’s humanity but, more importantly, we connect in common gratitude for His pervasive forgiveness and amazing grace.
If you don’t have a friend or a group who knows your dark corners . . . where you can confess that last 10% nobody knows about you and your heart, start asking God to connect you. Don’t stop looking until you find that safe place . . . where trust is total, and nothing is hidden.
Scripture: I am sending you to them, to open their eyes and turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, so that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me. (Acts 26:17b-18)