Sometimes we keep the sin in our lives well protected, guarded, covered over with lies. Sometimes we are not free enough to own our sin, so we cannot be healed of it. An unacknowledged wound cannot be healed.—MACRINA WIEDERKEHR, Seasons of Your Heart
Sin always wounds the sinner.—CARYLL HOUSELANDER, The Reed of God
Is sin a big deal? Is confession an archaic remnant of our faith? I’ll answer these two questions right now: Sin is a big deal and confession is important.
We often think of sin like a minor annoyance in the same way we occasionally get headache or twist an ankle. It is a small problem and it is no big deal. We have minimized sin. We all want to paint ourselves in the most positive light. Even I do that.
When we do that (and we do) we are minimizing our need for Christ. If sin is no big deal or a problem in my life, then I don’t need Jesus as much as others. Yikes! We all need Jesus and what he did for us.
Even modern theologians have tried to de-emphasize the atoning sacrifice of Christ while emphasizing that Christ is present with us in our darkest moments. These two theological ideas do not conflict with each other and both are true. Yet many theologians have made it an either/or proposition.
Christ came to us because we were far off from God. Jesus came to draw us close to Him. How did He do this? Through his death and more specifically the shedding of his blood to cover (and forgive) our sins. It is our sin that causes a spiritual distance between us and God. Even if God is present in our darkest times, our sin gets in the way of experiencing the peace of God’s presence. Look what Saint Paul wrote: But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near through the blood of Christ. Ephesians 2:13
Confession for the Christian is the activity that brings us near to Christ again and again.
This is what Martin Luther says about confession while quoting an early church John Chrysostom.
“I do not say that you should expose yourself in public or should accuse yourself before others, but obey the prophet who says, ‘Show your way to the Lord.’ Therefore confess to the Lord God, the true judge, in your prayer, telling him of your sins not with your tongue but in your conscience.”- Augsburg Confession, Article XV
It doesn’t need to be a show and it doesn’t have to be done publicly but it is the vehicle that will allow reconciliation. The same applies to our closest relationships. Asking for forgiveness allows healing between two parties.
However, when we can’t see our own brokenness, we minimize sin and we have a hard time establishing intimacy with others including God. A few weeks ago in church, I referenced this verse from Isaiah 64:6 to help us think through our fragile human condition.
All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away.
We like to think our good deeds are really good! See! I am a good person! And when do mess up, that is an isolated incident. It kind of reminds of me of McDonald’s when they released the Mc DLT sandwich. They featured the packaging that “keeps the hot side hot and cool side cool.” It is called compartmentalizing. It may work for a sandwich but it doesn’t in our lives. The verse above reminds us that even our “righteous acts” are sinful in God’s eyes.
That may seem harsh but it points our need for Christ. I completely understand what God is saying to Isaiah. Imagine if we lived in a mud pit and that was all we knew. Guess what? It would not be a big deal that everything we have (including ourselves) was always covered in mud. That’s just how life is. We cook in mud, we clean in mud, we shower in mud. If we lived like that, we wouldn’t even notice the mud but it is everywhere.
That is the way sin is. It is pervasive and infiltrates every part of our lives including our good deeds.
Once we come to realize how sin covers everything in our lives, we are more apt to confess our sins to God. Remember: confession is a return to our baptism where we are washed clean by Christ’s sacrifice on the cross.