by Stan Mitchell
A man in Holland came to his Catholic priest and gave the usual confession: “Bless me father, for I have sinned.”
“What have you done?” the priest asked. “You can tell me.”
“I hid some Jewish refugees during the NAZI occupation.”
“Well,” said the priest, “that was a good thing! No need to confess for that!”
“Yes but,” man continued, “I charged them twenty Guilders a month.”
“Well,” the wise old priest declared, “That wasn’t so good, but it was for a good cause.”
“Oh thank you father,” the man said in relief. “I feel so much better since talking to you.” As he began to leave, however, the Dutchman turned: “Just one more thing, father.”
“Yes my son, tell me.”
“Do I have to tell them that the war is over now?”
Confession is good for the soul, so the saying goes. We probably do ourselves a disservice, however, when we limit our understanding of confession in the church to those “errant” brothers and sisters whom we invite to come down the aisles every Sunday morning to “confess” wrong doing and to “ask for the prayers of the congregation.” What do we confess, to whom, and under what circumstances?
We can bring our admission of wrong doing before the congregation and ask for intercessory prayers. “Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed” (James 5:16).
If we have sinned against a particular person, we should go to him and express our remorse. “If you are offering your gift at the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First, go and be reconciled to your brother, then come and offer your gift” (Matthew 5:23,24).
Above all, we should confess our errors to God himself. “Against you,” David declared, “you only have I sinned” (Psalm 51:4). Of course David’s sin had hurt many people –- Uriah the Hittite, the nation of Israel, and his family, but he recognized that ultimately his sin had been a violation against God’s will.
On the positive side, we must confess our convictions -– that Jesus is the son of God, that he is Lord, and that his offer of mercy at the cross is our only salvation. “If you confess with your mouth that ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved” (Romans 10:9).
Confession is good for many reasons, but perhaps the most important is the reminder to ourselves that we are flawed and in need of God’s mercy. John reminds us that, by definition, the only unforgivable sin is the one committed by someone who steadfastly refuses to admit that he sins.
“If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:8,9).
In other words, the war we fight is with our own wounded pride; the one who refuses to confess is having trouble admitting that he needs God’s mercy. It’s time to say to our own willful egos, “The war is over.”
by Stan Mitchell