Monday, May 4, 2015

Confession: Do We Do That?

I was recently at my home congregation on a Sunday night, and the minister was discussing the story of David being confronted by Nathan. What a relief it must have been for David to have it out in the open, he suggested before offering this, "So much of the power of sin is secrecy, speaking our sin aloud steals its power. That's why confession is so important."

When I talk to anyone about confession, the first thing they say is either, "We're not Catholic" or "I don't think people do that anymore."  And I have some sympathy. Certainly it is rare that someone has come to me (especially if it wasn't someone I had helped to bring to Christ) and said, "I want to confess to you.  I have sinned..." Yet many times I have had the privilege of talking to friends and sisters about their sin.  And I have experienced great peace as I have told the truth, however hard and ugly, to a sister or a friend about my own sin. We have not outgrown confession in any way.

I want to encourage you to be people who recognize when a sister is confessing sin, who encourage people to lay aside their burdens and follow Jesus, and who offer powerful intercessory prayer.  With that in mind let me offer a few dos and don'ts.

DO recognize a confession when you hear it. Phrases like "I've been struggling with..." or "I'm having a hard time with... "I know it's wrong but..." or "I've really messed up this time..." are much more common than "I want to confess..."

DON'T excuse their sin away.  "I think that's normal,"  "Everybody feels that way," and "You couldn't help it" are the excuses that the world offers them.  These words have no power to provide peace and reconciliation, and they don't take sin seriously.  Excusing sin is a grave disservice, assuming it's true sin that your friend is confessing.

DON'T give into the temptation to act haughty.  (Proverbs 16:18) Remember how bad your own sin is and how often you have had to beg God for forgiveness before condemning your friend.

DO be a great listener. Don't interrupt.  Ask insightful questions.  Put your phone on silent.  Give them your full attention.  Reflect their words back to them, "So what you're saying is..." Try to hear with the grace and compassion your Father hears your confessions with.

DO pray with your friend immediately. 

DO pray for your friends to be protected from future temptation "And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil." (Matthew 6:13).

DON'T allow inappropriate intimacy.  For the safety and blamelessness of all parties involved, private and intimate confessions (especially regarding sexual sin or sin concerning one's spouse) should only occur between people of the same sex and/or in situations where couples can join to talk together.  

DON'T assume it's a job for ministers.  They can be intimidating guys.  If you have a sister you are close to, you are the one most likely to hear about how she loses her temper with the kids, nags her husband or struggles to find the line between sharing and gossip.  These aren't problems she'll be taking to the minister, but they are the kinds of ordinary sin that draw us all away from God and slowly destroy us.  Don't let her down.

DO be prepared to offer truth for truth.  Be ready to share a time when you have also sinned and what the consequences were.  

DO go to scripture and see what God has to say.  If you don't really know off the top of your head, it's ok.  Take some time to study and get back to your friend!  (I have known several women in difficult moments in their marriage who were encouraged by Christians to leave their husbands as though God did not say plainly that He hated divorce.)

DON'T be shocked.  We are all fallen people liable to fall back into our old ways and all the more if the person you are talking with is still lost!  

DO bring all shame and guilt back where it belongs.  "For the sorrow that is according to the will of God produces a repentance without regret, leading to salvation, but the sorrow of the world produces death." (2 Corinthians 7:10) And John confirms for us that when we repent and confess God is faithful and will forgive us.  (1 John 1:9-10)

DO understand that sin may still have consequences.  The person who had an affair no matter how repentant may have done permanent damage to their marriage.  A person who has lied or stolen at work will likely lose their job.

DON'T allow confession to become a mask for gossip, griping, false witness or worse.

What other advice would you give?  Do you have a sister in Christ that you tell the truth to about your sin?



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