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True Confessions

Admittedly the idea of pouring out our souls to someone is both intimidating and counter-cultural.  In a nation that celebrates the successes of people and condemns the failures; we like to keep our confessions to ourselves.  However, in the upside-down kingdom of God, we are supposed to do the exact opposite.  Wait!  Before you click away, can I give you my confession? If I'm being honest, confession is awkward and it makes me feel vulnerable and soft and as an aggressive personality, I don't naturally lend myself to these feelings.  Be that as it may, when I reach toward Christ and intentionally decide to follow the practices laid out in scripture, I naturally fall upon the practice of confession.  

As I began to explore this topic the question that floated to the surface of my heart was, "what IS confession?"  I mean, if I'm going to start practicing it, I should know what it is.  There are two examples of the word confess in the Bible.  The first is simply a profession of faith and the Bible tells us that we are to do this openly and to all who will hear.  The second, and to some, the most challenging, is admitting wrongdoing or sin. In scripture, we have good examples of both.  
The confession of Christ appears in the gospels and throughout the epistles we find in the New Testament.  In Luke12:8-9 Jesus says:
"Also I say to you, whoever confesses Me before men, him the Son of Man also will confess before the angels of God. But he who denies Me before men will be denied before the angels of God."
Here we see the importance of making a public declaration of faith.  Put simply, this is letting the people around you know that you are a follower of Christ, and this is important for two reasons.  

The first is to give people a reference point to which they can look at in your story.  Everyone has decided to follow Christ at different stages in their life. Some, at a very young age and so, to most observers, their faith is apparent in their past and present.  Others have decided to follow Christ later in life, and the decision may not have been as known.  Confessing Christ is like highlighting your story, it helps others see and identify your decision. It's like saying "this is where it got good!" Also, making a public profession has a way of making you accountable because your behaviors will change, and if they suddenly change back you are able to identify the habitual behaviors that you need to surrender to God.  

The second reason we need to make this public confession is to acknowledge the fact that we are in divine relationship with Christ and, in doing so, we are acknowledging that we are submitting our lives to Christ (1 Timothy 6:12-14).  I love how this makes confession relational, as we gather our hearts towards God and gather in fellowship with our sisters and brothers in Christ we experience the true confession of faith.  That confession is not always perfect, in fact, a lot of times it is messy.  But it's there in the messy parts that we get to pray St. Patrick's prayer: 
"...Christ before me, Christ beneath me, Christ to my left and right, Christ all around me!"

The other example of confession found in scripture is to confess our sins one to another (James 5:16).  Here confession is transformational and very personal, as it involves sharing fears, weaknesses and shortcomings. Although uncomfortable, as followers of Christ this is a very important part of confession.  However, it is important to look at the meaning of the word sin here.  In the Greek the word for sin is "hamartia" and that word translated to English means "missing the mark".  The original word was used in regards to archery. Hamartia was the term used when the archers would miss the bullseye.  When we look at sin through this lens it gives a completely different understanding of the word, which in turn should reframe how we approach confession.  The practice of confession doesn't have to have the negative connotations of shame or judgment attached to it, if anything, when we look at sin through this lens, we simply see that confession is key in helping us correct our aim.

The final question that I had about confession was "to whom do I confess?"  As a Protestant this spiritual practice seems foreign to me as there is no set way for me to give confession. But all you need is to have is a method set in place for you to practice confession.  We see examples of this through scripture.  In Jewish culture the practice of confession is done alone before God.  And in the book of Acts we see that they confessed in a corporate setting (Acts 19:18-19).  The point here is not to whom or where you confess. The focus should be that you do confess, keeping in mind that confession should be done without shame or feeling judged.   And if you are confessing to someone, they should be a trusted person who has also surrendered his or her life to Christ.

Finding and following Jesus is not something that one achieves; it is a life's journey.   These spiritual practices can not only make that journey less rugged, but if shared in community they can turn our confessions into compassion and offer the strength we need to endure.

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