>The Value of Confession: Part I (What we want)

Posted: 13/07/2010 in Anne Jackson, Christian living, confession, devotions


“Therefore, confess your sins to one another, pray for one another so that you may be healed. The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much.” – James 4:16

Over the last couple of weeks I have given some thought to the idea of confession of sins in between believers. I am not only referring to a sin towards someone and then apologizing for that sin. I am talking about struggling with sin in general, and confessing that to another Christian. This is a practice that is facilitated well in Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy, and could happen in evangelicalism. With the exception of Anne Jackson’s project, I do not know of any evangelical organization that focuses on such. Yet, I see a need for it in evangelicalism because it can point us to three things we hope for in our communities. Here they are.

Authenticity, for instance, is a mantra among Christians. This is especially strong among twenty something post-evangelicals like myself. No one likes pretense. No one likes duplicity. You, reading this, probably can think of times in which people felt the pressure to act good, appear holy and holier, and otherwise put on a smile when they are not feeling it. Now, I am by no means suggesting that everyone should hang their dirty laundry out the window. I am only saying that Christians really do want to be able to admit that they are, in fact, really sinful people. We all want to be understood as such. Christians who struggle with depression, addictions or anything similar probably know this.

Humility is also often in short supply. Now, humility is not self deprecation. It is a frank assessment of oneself and the limits of one’s abilities. It is the willingness to be slow to speak and quick to understand. It is the quest to consider others greater than yourself, but without falling into envy or despair. It is the willingness to recognize that we cause our own problems and to recognize where we must improve. All of this must be consistently practiced. It is a task that is never ending.

We also desire an in-depth Christian community. It is true that our implicit individualism keeps many from even wanting this, but I feel that many Christians have realized that “Just me and my Bible” or “Just me and the Holy Spirit” is not the kind of faith we were really meant to have. Rather, we all believe that God puts us in church for good reason. The work of the Holy Spirit is frequently accomplished through other people in our lives. Another person’s look at scripture will improve ours. Most importantly, we realize that as much as we want to represent Christ to the world, we also want to represent Christ to each other. This, again, is something that is not easy to do, but is part of what it means to be a Christian.

These three things –authenticity, humility, and community– are all things Christians desire. They are all things that Christians need. They are all good things that we know we should have, but usually do not have. We want to live in a community of authentic human beings who love each other enough that none are afraid to admit their faults. We want to be the kinds of Christians who listen before we judge. However, we all know that this does not happen as well as it should.

I will write on the nuts and bolts of confession and reconciliation next. Please keep reading because of those future blogs.

  1. alexan says:

    >I definitely agree. Authentic community is severely hampered by image management – especially when it comes to sin.I'm looking forward to your nuts and bolts post. I've seen way too many 'accountability' structures that are counterproductive in their use of confession.

  2. […] already discussed what I think confession could look like for evangelical protestants and why it directs us to what people already … Here though, is the Book of Common Prayer. The church leader responds to someone like Andrew with […]

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