The confession of evil works is the first beginning of good works.
- Augstine of Hippo
This week's reading about Spiritual Formation has to do with Confession. This isn't my favorite topic! This makes me nervous. This makes me nervous because of what's in you, not because of what's in me. I view the believing-community as one that is full of sinners before it's a community of saints. From my perspective, we all have done shameful things. To discover that one person or another has done something awful does not surprise me or catch me off guard very often. I am well aware of the condition of mankind. We are off track, we are deprived, we do horrible things… this is why we need a savior. As a pastor, people have let me into their lives and trusted me with their secrets.
I think confession is amazingly powerful, but it requires so much vulnerability!
I'm not convinced that the majority of Christians can break free from the bonds of hypocrisy. Many people think that others are more spiritual than themselves. People often view themselves as the only ones who aren't living holy lives and continue to struggle with many things. This is especially true as people think of Pastors. It seems that Pastors aren't supposed to have faults, struggles, or sins. They must have it all together or they shouldn't be a pastor. This view of others in the Christian community make it very difficult for many people to confess their own sins and isolation becomes rampant.
But what if we saw our community as one that is full of sinners? Would the power of mutual confession bring healing and victory? One of the reasons that the Celebrate Recovery movement is so powerful is that these people start by identifying themselves as broken and in need. On the other hand, how many people walk into church communicating that they are broken and needy? We put on our best clothes. Even if our spouse has irritated us, we put on our best smile as we shake hands, give hugs and sing happy songs. We view church as a community of saints. I can't tell you how many people that I've met over the years who have actually told me that they don't want to go to church because they aren't "good enough". Even the non-believers get the impression that church-goers are really good people. What part does that lack of confession play into this tragic situation?
I think that Confession is the number one most important spiritual formation discipline for the American church. I think it's more important that going to church on Sundays (gasp!) or praying or reading the bible. I think that mutual confession should lead us to church, to bible reading and to prayer.
At the same time, I'm the Chief Resistor to confession. I can be completely honest with God about all the wretched stuff inside of me. But, I confess, that I'm not so ready to confess to you.