After reading Jesus’ identification of the two most important commandments, if we are honest, we are immediately aware of the impossibility of living them out consistently every day. We may not always immediately recall the occasions when we have not put God first or preferred to please ourselves rather than serve other people, but what about those negative thoughts and attitudes we’ve had about folk…
So…Let us confess our sins to the Father and seek his pardon and peace.
Almighty and merciful God, we have sinned against you in thought, word and deed. We have not loved you with all our heart; and we have not loved others as Christ loves us.
We often deride our politicians who, when found out about some shortcoming or other, immediately respond with the expression – “I didn’t do anything wrong” rather than openly admit to their failings. We live in a world where people do their own thing and avoid taking responsibility; having a personal or social conscience is no longer regarded as important. We too, may question why we need a time of confession every day. However, the closer we get in our walk with God, the greater may be our realisation of how far we fall short of his holiness. Our uncharitable thoughts turn so easily into unhelpful words and actions that we later regret. Also, I have found it helpful to deal with issues as they arise:
Do not let the sun go down while you are still angryEph. 4. 26
has, unfortunately, long been one of the verses to which I have to frequently return – if at all possible we need to sort things out straight away – it will only get more difficult if we put it off!
All humans have a God-given sense of right and wrong behaviour. Many religions have confession as part of their practices, including Buddhism and Islam; Christians are not unique in that – but we have assurance that our confession is heard by God and sin is dealt with comprehensively. To whom should we address our confession? Different traditions have different practices. Some Christians follow the “confessional” in the Roman Catholic tradition, where the priest is the recipient, or turn to a fellow Christian, following the practice set out by James:
Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.Jas. 5. 16
We can say our confessional prayer out loud, publicly in a church service, or quietly during our own devotional time at home. Whatever way we choose, the confession of our failings has to be made in the first instance to our Heavenly Father. We think of the prodigal son as he prepared to return to his father and rehearsed what he would say:
Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired servants.Luke 15. 18,19
However, there are times at which we should also admit to someone else when we have wronged them and seek their forgiveness too. Likewise, we may have to make our confession to a wider group of people – the prodigal’s selfishness affected all the other members of his family. This may need to be handled sensitively, to avoid causing further distress to the parties involved. When we come to confession, we can also fall into the pitfall of looking back repeatedly at past failings which have already been dealt with. A sense of guilt is there to drive us to confession, not to beat ourselves up with negative thoughts of misdemeanours that have been previously forgiven.
Confession is only one side of the coin; next week we will consider the other positive steps we need to make in dealing with our common problem…