During our church’s recent prayer and fasting week, I had a chance to share about the topic of confession. Confession is a topic that is not often discussed because it is a sensitive subject. It makes people uncomfortable. We would like to believe that we are faultless in most situation.
The church is a community made up of imperfect people living imperfect lives. It is not surprising that there will be conflicts and misunderstandings. But unless these are resolved quickly, the church cannot progress. Just like our bodies have different parts with different functions, we can’t have the different parts working against each other. We can only reach our true potential when we work together and not against each other. A finger by itself is weak but when the fingers combined to form a fist then magnifies its strength exponentially. So how come even in a church setting, it’s so difficult to resolve conflicts? It is because of our unwillingness to confess our offense and our resistance to forgive. But we need to confess and be reconciled with one another because it is a command given to us by Christ. We can’t truly worship if there is anger and bitterness in our hearts. Matthew 5:23-24 “Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift.
The major reasons why we rarely confess are : Fear (we are afraid), Shame (we are embarrassed) and Pride (we are too proud). We go through these because we often have a wrong concept of what confession really is.
Psalm 51 is a psalm by King David when he was confronted by the prophet Nathan regarding his sin of adultery with Bathsheba and his consequent sin of murder of Bathsheba’s husband Uriah. Psalm 51 is a wonderful reasource for us to learn what true confession really is.
Based on Psalm 51, there are at least 2 things that Confession isn’t and 2 things that confession is.
#1 Confession is not about asking for forgiveness. (Psalm 51:1)
We are afraid to get embarrassed when we confess and beg for forgiveness, then the offended party refuses to forgive us. When we confess, we don’t do it simply as a way to gain forgiveness. Forgiveness is a part of it but it is not the only part. David knew that, look at how he started his prayer in vs 1-2. He knew that when we confess, we are appealing to the MERCY and not just forgiveness from the offended party. We have no right to make demands from them. Whether they will forgive us or not is no longer our part. Our part is to confess.
#2 Confession is not a way for us to escape the consequences of our actions. (Psalm 51:4)
Years ago when I was still in the university, I was studying for a midterm exam for one of my major subjects. That particular day, it seems like my brain was in a fog because try as I did, I couldn’t seem to retain anything I was reading and studying. I felt like my brain was plugged. So I decided that the only way I am going to pass that exam was to cheat, so that was exactly what I did the next day. After my exam, while on my way home inside the LRT, I felt very uncomfortable and remorseful so much so that when I got to my stop, I didn’t go home. Instead, I crossed the street and went to the other side to take the LRT back to the university. When I got there, I went to the faculty room and looked for the professor. When I found him, I confessed and said to him that he need not grade my paper because I cheated. I remember him giving me this confused and incredulous “what’s the catch” look. I thanked him and went home. Next week when we got our papers, it was of no surprise to me (although I was kind of hoping, the professor would be merciful) that I got a failing mark. Good thing for me, it was a pass or fail exam.
Many of us only confess because we got caught and often times, we only confess to the extent of the evidence presented. That is because we are afraid to suffer the consequences. We even get angry when judgement is passed upon us for what we did. But David knew that he had no right to question God (the offended party) that was why he said, “You are right in Your verdict and justified when You judge.” When we do the crime then we must be ready to do the time.
#3 Confession is acknowledging that we are at fault and we alone are responsible for our actions. (Psalm 51:3-5)
Pride is probably the major reason why many people are unwilling to confess. Our pride often prevent us from admitting that we are wrong, so much so that we often resort to playing the blame game or pull out the victim card. In fact, Satan gets to be wrongfully blamed most of the time, Satan can and will tempt us but the decision and the choice to commit sin is not his but ours. You can lead a horse to the water but you can’t force the horse to drink.
We often claim that others are just as guilty or more guilty than we are and that we were simply responding in kind. And if that fails, we whip out our victim card, we are simply the victims here, being attacked and wrongfully accused. I fully expected to fail on that exam I cheated on but I still felt disappointed when I got my paper. After all, I wasn’t the only one who cheated. But does that make me less guilty? No.
We fail to realize that even if we have a 1% or a 0.5% part in offense, we are just as guilty as the one who has a 99.9% part in the whole situation. We always make a mistake of classifying certain sins as heavier or more serious than others. Sin is sin. And God’s standard is either 100% or 0%. There is no middle ground. God is holy and righteous. He will tolerate no sin, that’s why He made a way for us to be saved through His Son JESUS CHRIST. Jesus died on the cross equally for the person whose only sin in life was to tell one white lie and for the person who raped and killed multiple times. Sin is sin regardless of the “frequency and severity”.
Henry Blackaby in his Experiencing God Devotional said “An exalted view of God brings a clear view of sin and a realistic view of self. A diminished view of God brings a reduced concern for sin and an inflated view of self.” David had the right perspective of God so he knew that he alone was responsible for his own actions because he was born sinful. No blaming of others, no claiming that he was a victim.
#4 True Confession is always coupled with repentance. (Psalm 51:16-17).
If someone offends us and comes to us to confess and then goes away to do the exactly again and repeat the cycle on a regular basis, we would probably doubt the sincerity of that person’s confession. When we have the right view of God we will have a right view of the seriousness of sin. We will hate sin as much as God hates it. And we will abhor it and really not desire to repeat it. We do not confess simply as a salve for our guilty conscience. David knew that mere words are not enough that was why he said “You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it; You do not take pleasure in burnt offerings. My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart You, God, will not despise.”
Our ability to confess is the sanctifying and transforming work of the Holy Spirit in our lives. It is the 1st step to reconciliation and vital for the peace and harmony in our interpersonal relationships.
Proverbs 28:13 – Whoever conceals their sins does not prosper, but the one who confesses and renounces them finds mercy.
May we listen and submit to the still, small voice of the Holy Spirit and learn to confess and reconcile with each other. God bless us all.