Friday, August 13, 2010

Confession as a Second language, Part 2

As I learned to confess more intimate sins and I learned something about myself. I am real bad about justifying my sin or like Adam, placing the blame on someone else. This is what it often looked like.

Me: Listen I just wanted to ask your forgiveness for being short with you earlier and not treating you like I should…It’s just that…I’m kind of frustrated because you are always interrupting me and nagging me about stuff.

Wife: Ummm…that just made it worse.

Yeah, not pretty. Sounds familiar huh. God: Did you eat the fruit? Adam: Umm…yeah, I did. But it was the woman you gave me who offered me some fruit and I ate it. We hate taking the full blame for our actions. We want to water down our blame. This is not true confession. We are supposed to confess OUR sins, not the other persons. See it doesn’t matter what caused you to act wrong, you still acted wrong. You are responsible for it. There is a time and a place for dealing with those frustrations, it just isn’t during your confession. When confessing search your heart. See if you have done anything to wrong someone, an action, a thought, a word, whatever. Then confess what you have done. If they feel conviction they may confess something to you, but if they don’t, that’s okay.

Many sins within the church begin with a simple misunderstanding or an offense that goes undealt with. That is why Jesus taught us what to do in these instances. Let’s look at Matt 18:15-17

If your brother wrongs you, go and show him his fault, between you and him privately. If he listens to you, you have won back your brother. But if he does not listen, take along with you one or two others, so that every word may be confirmed and upheld by the testimony of two or three witnesses. If he pays no attention to them [refusing to listen and obey], tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a pagan and a tax collector.

As you can see in this passage the burden of confrontation is upon the offended not the offender. What usually goes on in our heads is something more akin to vengance. “Well, they know what they did and they should come and say they are sorry!” When actually this passage says just the opposite. It says we should take the offense directly to our brother. Why? In my experience, 9 out of 10 times the brother has no idea he has even offended you. It is usually just a misunderstanding that leads to immediate reconciliation. But it requires us to be humble and admit when our feelings have been hurt. More often than not I see people more concerned with winning an argument than finding peace in their relationships. This is destructive to the person but especially to the body.

When we follow this simple teaching of Christ confession is usually joined with asking for forgiveness and then repentance. This is one of the most beautiful expressions of Christian love in the community of believers. I have always said that one of the chief characteristics of God is forgiveness. And if we truly want to emulate him and be like him, we will forgive. We will forgive when we have been misunderstood. We will forgive even if it makes us look bad, we will forgive over and over and over(Luke 17:4). Because that is how he treats us. Remember the Lords prayer(Luke 11:4)? “Forgive us our sins AS we forgive those who sin against us” The ‘as’ in this sentence is not meaning at the same time, but in the same way. If we will be forgiven in the same way we have forgiven others, we better be people characterized by forgiveness because we sure need plenty of it.

Finally, Jesus says if you have taken your offense to you brother privately, with witnesses and even before the church and he still does not repent that we should treat him like a Pagan or a tax collector. Many feel that this is finally the place where they get to punish the one who has wronged them by kicking them out of the body. While it may be necessary to take some strong action, possibly even excluding them from meetings, the sentiment is not hatefulness. How did Jesus treat tax collectors? How did Paul treat Pagans? They were lost, people needing a savior. They were treated with Love and kindness. The passage is basically saying if they refuse to repent then treat them like unbelievers, win them over to Christ through love.

If you really want to begin to live this active, participatory Body life confession is a good place to start. At its core it is humbling and others centered. It brings about unity. It gives the church something to do. Instead of just sitting in a pew hearing lofty words you forget before you even leave the building, why don’t we help one another with their struggles. Carry each others burdens (Galatians 6:2)

But before we can carry each others burdens, don’t forget you have to reveal your burdens to the ones who can help, the church. That is the first obstacle in beginning to speak the language of confession. Getting over yourself and your desire to be misunderstood. See, We want people to misunderstand us and think we are better than we are. It is precisely because of this obstacle that most people never learn the language of Confession.

Our problem with confession stems from our fear of being found out! Everyone is under the (false) impression that I am good, kind, and hard working. They think I am a good dad and a great husband, I am a faithful follower of Jesus in every way. So, if this is all true, if I am doing alright why do I need Jesus?

Remember the people Jesus enjoyed being around. Not sinners, but sinners who admitted they needed help. The pharisees were sinners, they just didn’t admit it. They portrayed an outward expression that said I have it all together. Sound familiar? But these “sinners” Jesus hung out with basically said, “I am a mess, I am beyond help, I am a prostitute, a drunk, a thief, a disease ridden, broken down pile of flesh. Jesus, you are the only one who can help me.” Everyone already knew who they were. They didn’t need to hide, they couldn’t if they wanted to. Jesus reached out to them because they were broken before him. To the Pharisees, who hid their sin with religious piety and fancy words, Jesus said…”Hypocrite! Snake! Liar! you look great on the outside but inside you are full of death.” I no longer want to be found in the camp of the Pharisees. I want to be known for what I am, so that Jesus can be seen for who He is. I encourage you to confess your true self to the world and let Jesus be glorified in you. Paul did it:

So I find this law at work: When I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God's law; but I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God—through Jesus Christ our Lord! (Romans 7:21-25)

So will I:

I am selfish, I am lazy, I put myself above my family, I am like a prostitute who follows after loves of the world and ignores the only one who truly loves me. I am angry, I hold grudges. I fight. I think myself better than others. I am a freaking mess! Jesus, Help me!

How about you?


Anonymous said...

Because my sins usually begin with me, I start by confessing them to the Lord. It’s not about telling Him the six o’clock news, since He knew of my sins before I even committed them. It’s more about hearing myself agree with How He views my sin in relation to my fellowship with the Godhead and with the church. At the drop of a hat I can be pretty good at going into a huge litany about what I did wrong, how, when, where and why. However, what I do wrong is a direct result of what I fail to or choose not to do right. To the extent that I fail to turn inward away from myself unto the Lord, to that extent I turn outward away from Him instead. To the extent that I fail to live unto God by His life in Christ, to that extent I find myself living unto myself and/or others instead; basically dethroning the Lord in the process. Like counter steering in order to avoid hitting an object, person or another vehicle on the road, as long as we turn away from our sins by gently and lovingly turning to the Lord, we can do what is right by becoming more and more like Him-from glory to glory, as by the Spirit of the Lord; till at last we forget to do what is wrong. Imagine forgetting to sin against God and others.