Here is something to think about. We confess our sins to God telling Him what it is we believe we have done or thought or said that might have been offensive to Him. Then, we ask for forgiveness and believe the slate is clean. There are many versions of this game. And, it is a game.
We confess to God, to a priest, to a minister, a rabbi, a friend, or … Then we go about life and continue to live the same way, committing the same sins, and needing to be forgiven again and again, over and over again. So you find yourself – if you are religious – confessing your sins (often the same sins) over and over again and again. Nothing changes but for a few short hours (or minutes) we feel good about ourselves as we have relieved the guilt and done what we believe is right and good.
Confession then is about guilt relief or, worse still, fulfilling a weekly or monthly religious requirement to remain in good standing with the Church. We know, even while we are confessing our sins, that we will be back the next day (week, month) confessing the same sins again. Our routine has nothing to so with change. We just want to feel better or fill some religious obligation passed on to us by our parents.
Chances are, you play your own version of the confession game. Some confess to a priest, some confess directly to God, but none of us is really interested in changing anything. But we sure feel better about ourselves. The cloud lifts. The slate’s clean. And now that we’ve gotten God off our case, we think perhaps He’ll be on our side. But would you side up with someone who treated you that way? Who used you that way?
Imagine you had a brother who continually stole from you, embarrassed you publicly, and talked badly about you behind your back — but once a week he came to you and said, in very general terms, he was sorry (which you already knew). But no sooner did you turn around than he was right back at it again. To make matters worse, he has the nerve to ask for your help whenever he gets in a bind. How would you characterize that relationship? Even if you were able to genuinely forgive him each time, what would eventually happen to the relationship? There would be no relationship. At best, you would feel used; more than likely, you would feel insulted. What kind of idiot does he take me for? Does he really think that I believe his apology is sincere when he turns around and does the same things again and again?
Need I make the application?
Let’s face it; our approach to confession is an insult to our heavenly Father. We certainly wouldn’t dream of staying in a relationship with anyone who treated us that way. It’s a good thing His love is unconditional — otherwise, we would all be in trouble.
So where did we go wrong? Why this endless cycle? How is it that we’ve allowed confession to become a tool to facilitate our sin rather than ending it? Well, I’m glad you asked. Or I’m glad I asked. Anyway, that’s a great question and one that deserves consideration.
We Play the confession game because somewhere along the way we were taught that the purpose of confession was conscience relief. That is, we confess in order to make ourselves feel better about what we’ve done. And if you want to put a theological spin on it, we confess because we think it will somehow help God feel better about what we’ve done. According to our twisted way of thinking, confession puts everything back just the way it was before we did whatever it was we did that made us feel like we needed to confess.
But come on, that doesn’t even make any sense. How can confessing to God what you did to another person make everything right? How does that restore anything? What about the person you’ve wronged?
Not only does it not make sense, it doesn’t work. This pseudo-confession doesn’t remove our guilt. Like Tylenol, our quick confession prayers take the edge off our pain, but they don’t heal the wound caused by our sin. It does not heal the relationship (with God and others) caused by your sinful actions – thoughts, words, deeds. This is why you find yourself repeating and confession the sins of your past (and present) over and over again. The guilt is still there. The issues have not been resolved. Restoration has not been accomplished. In reality, nothing has changed.
More next time…