confession and repentance
I have been pondering the role of confession and repentance in our lives as an essential part of Christian community. It seems like confession and repentance is not a regular practice or value we have in our Christian communities. We don’t talk about the need for confession. We don’t create atmospheres that are conducive for confession. We don’t value confession. It’s too messy and awkward and hard… and if we say that confession is important, then maybe we will be forced to come clean with our own junk.
It makes sense that confession and repentance has not been emphasized because sin, the thing that leads to the need for confession, is often not emphasized. If we don’t make it a simple fact in our Christian communities that we all screw up and sin, that it is simply a fact that we are a messy and broken people, it is hard to get to confession and repentance.
Instead, even the most amazing Christian communities I have been a part of seem to run as a meritocracy. Those that screw up less, that have it all together, that are more responsible, are the ones who are valued. They are the leaders and examples and the trusted ones.
Instead, it seems like we should value the confessors. Because those who appear to have it all together never really do. They may have it more together, but everyone is still sinful and broken and messy. The confessors are the ones who are honest about their brokenness, making them more open to repentance and transformation and community. Those who continue to hide behind the mask of having it all together are not as free from their sins and cannot be fully embraced by the rest of the community as their true messy selves. Our leaders should be the confessors. Those willing to admit their sinfulness and eager to repent and change.
Rob Bell said in his recent sermon “Confession”:
“Confession is connected to freedom. I am no longer pretending like I have it all together. I am no longer trying to project the image that I am fast enough. I am no longer carefully crafting the sort of mask to make everybody know I got what it takes, that I have it going on. I have given that up. You know what, I am kinda confused. I’m kinda lost. I don’t have the answer. I don’t have the money for that, so I am not going to pretend that I do. There is a sort of freedom that comes with that, that I don’t have to pretend anymore.”
Pastor Eugene Cho has argued that there are assumptions and agreements that maintain order and cohesiveness within any community without which no organization can function. In the church, one of these assumptions is that we are all working towards becoming the person (and the people) that God created us to be. Unrepentant sin undermines that goal and needs to be dealt with. (from Eugene Cho’s blog)
I agree with Pastor Cho. It seems like if we are as church communities trying to move towards becoming the people that God created us to be, we need to become great confessors. We do not get there by working harder and pretending we are already the people God created us to be, but to admit that we are not there yet. That we are not living as God wants for us. And in that act of confession, in admitting we aren’t the people God created us to be, we become the people God created us to be. It is one of those wonderful backwards upside-down kingdom of God things that makes no sense but at the same time makes perfect sense. We are to be broken confessors. Only when we admit we are sinful messes can we move closer to becoming the people of God.