Confession has never been a feel-good word to me. I grew up in a Korean Presbyterian church, so confession often meant something along the lines of punishment, sinner, dirty, shame. Shame for the things we had done. Shame for the ways we had failed. Shame for not being able to overcome. Shame for even feeling shame. A prayer of confession ended with an amen drenched in guilt rather than freedom and forgiveness. We were taught to be tough, to have it all together, to cover up weakness, to confess our brokenness silently before God but not to one another.
Over time we wrapped our identities around the idea that being a Jesus follower meant being joyous and victorious without fail. It meant we could and should sustain our faith and the practices of it on our own and without help. It meant not struggling with sin but overcoming it. It meant stepping higher, becoming stronger, growing holier. Otherwise, only the opposite could be true- that our faith must not be good enough.
It’s a shaky foundation to be standing on. And this is when I wonder if the Catholic Church got it right. Would we be better off if we got into the rhythm of confessing to one another as they do to their priests? Confession even among pastors- or maybe even more so among pastors- is a rarity, and I wish it weren’t so. I think about the lives, the families, the churches that could’ve been spared. The damage and the hurt that could’ve been avoided. I think about how ministries and leadership teams could’ve been revived, how integrity and community could’ve been fostered.
Confessing in quiet prayer before God is good and needed, but confessing out loud to a trusted friend opens the door to a whole new level of healing and restoration. It allows for us to be priests to one another. To minister to each other, to repent on behalf of the other, to become the open door through which the breeze of grace flows. It breaks the stronghold of sin and exposes the darkness we’d rather hide.
It softens us. Yes, it makes us vulnerable, but it allows us to apply the balm of the gospel into each other’s souls. We get to sing the truth over one another, and hearing it from the other’s mouth helps restore us back to our true identity. The going back and forth of confessing and truth-telling reminds us that we are His beloved, His desired ones. It helps us to remember that we were created for more, that we are being made into Christ’s likeness, that He is our greatest Reward. Our identity as sons and daughters of God is restored, and we once again stand in that place of confidence.
Confessing to one another, when it’s done well, lets us experience true community. Could anything be sweeter and holier than that? True community is meant to give us a glimpse of the communion we have with God- to be wholly seen and wholly loved. And from this foundation of love, we can understand the freeing power of authenticity. The freedom to be weak. The freedom to need help. The freedom and lightness that comes from bearing each other, of holding each other up, of linking arms and walking together. When we come to the end of ourselves and invite others into the mess, we can become restored to our truest selves, our most loved and secure selves through one another.
Make this your common practice: Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you can live together whole and healed (James 5:16 MSG)
We need each other. We need confession in our lives. We need to get into the rhythm of confessing to one another so that we can become whole and healed, so that we can become an authentic community. We need this to happen in the leadership of the Church, for the sake of the Church. We need this to happen for those outside the Church to see that we are in need of grace just as much as they are.
Let’s make it a common practice. Let’s confess to one another so that we may be restored.