Chapter 1: God cares for all of us - confession
From his hospital bed, a Veteran turned to the chaplain with an intense stare. He started to speak but his words froze. His chin quivered. He tried again, “Chaplain, I have done horrible things. I was just a young kid when I enlisted. I wanted to serve my country. That was my purpose. I wanted to protect my family. But honestly, I had no idea what I was getting into. I have killed people with my bare hands. And I am so ashamed. I was taught, ‘Thou shall not kill.’
“I was sick after the first person I killed. I was sick after the second one, too. By the fourth one,” here the Veteran stopped, looked down and whispered, “I began to feel a rush. I enjoyed it. I got a high from killing. Now I am so ashamed, ashamed beyond words. The people I killed were someone’s husband, father or son.”
That same morning, as the chaplain made her rounds in the Veterans’ hospital, another Veteran shared his story. “You know, I’ve never told anyone this, but I got a ton of guilt for what I didn’t do. Some of my buddies didn’t come back; others came back without a leg or arm. I didn’t even see combat. I feel like a failure.”
Confession is, most simply, telling our innermost story, honestly. Confession is getting real with ourselves, without defense — just telling it like it is.
Confession is a radical act of faith; for to confess is to hope that there is another who will understand, forgive, and bless us into healing. Confession is one of the greatest gifts we can give God, because God does not ask us to be perfect; rather, God asks us to give all of ourselves to God, “the good, the bad, and the ugly.” It is only in this gift of giving our whole selves to God that we can hope to be restored to a life-giving purpose, to a life filled with rich, deep, connected meaning.
The need for confession, to restore a sense of purpose, is as old as the Scriptures themselves. We stand in a long line of all human beings who have missed the mark of God’s will for our lives. Read the following Scriptures with the assurance that we are not alone in both the need and the difficulty in raising up an honest confession to God.
Readings from the Old Testament / Hebrew Scriptures
When God brought the Israelites back home to Jerusalem, following the period of exile in Babylonia, Ezra, the priest, offered a prayer of confession on behalf of the people.
“O God, I am too ashamed to raise my head in your presence. Our sins pile up higher than our heads; they reach as high as the heavens. LORD God of Israel, you are just, but you have let us survive. We confess our guilt to you; we have no right to come into your presence.”
The psalm writer speaks of the joy of forgiveness following confession.
Happy are those whose sins are forgiven,
whose wrongs are pardoned.
Happy is the one whom the LORD
does not accuse of doing wrong
and who is free from all deceit.
When I did not confess my sins,
I was worn out from crying all day long.
Then I confessed my sins to you;
I did not conceal my wrongdoings.
I decided to confess them to you,
and you forgave all my sins.
The psalm writer turns to God for help in time of suffering.
In this psalm of confession, attributed to King David, David seeks God’s forgiveness for having arranged to have someone killed in battle.
Be merciful to me, O God,
because of your constant love.
Because of your great mercy
wipe away my sins!
Wash away all my evil
and make me clean from my sin!
Create a pure heart in me, O God,
and put a new and loyal spirit in me.
Do not banish me from your presence;
do not take your holy spirit away from me.
Give me again the joy that comes
from your salvation,
and make me willing to obey you.
Proverbs, one of the wisdom books of the Bible, reminds us of God’s mercy.
You will never succeed in life if you try to hide your sins.
Confess them and give them up; then God will show mercy to you.
God is always ready to forgive.
Come back to the LORD your God.
He is kind and full of mercy;
he is patient and keeps his promise;
he is always ready to forgive and not punish.
Readings from the New Testament
Come to the Lord in prayer.
Are any among you in trouble? They should pray. So then, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, so that you will be healed. The prayer of a good person has a powerful effect.
Receive the cleansing that God offers.
If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and there is no truth in us. But if we confess our sins to God, he will keep his promise and do what is right: he will forgive us our sins and purify us from all our wrongdoing.
1 John 1.8,9
Jesus offers words of comfort, assuring those who believe in him that they will not be judged.
“Just as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, in the same way the Son gives life to those he wants to. Nor does the Father himself judge anyone. He has given his Son the full right to judge, so that all will honor the Son in the same way as they honor the Father. Whoever does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent him. “I am telling you the truth: those who hear my words and believe in him who sent me have eternal life. They will not be judged, but have already passed from death to life.”
Jesus came to serve God and to suffer on our behalf for the forgiveness of sins.
It was only right that God, who creates and preserves all things, should make Jesus perfect through suffering, in order to bring many children to share his glory. For Jesus is the one who leads them to salvation. He purifies people from their sins, and both he and those who are made pure all have the same Father.
Jesus understands your pain and leads you into the presence of God where you will receive mercy.
There is nothing that can be hid from God; everything in all creation is exposed and lies open before his eyes. And it is to him that we must all give an account of ourselves. Let us, then, hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we have a great High Priest who has gone into the very presence of God – Jesus, the Son of God. Our High Priest is not one who cannot feel sympathy for our weaknesses. On the contrary, we have a High Priest who was tempted in every way that we are, but did not sin. Let us have confidence, then, and approach God’s throne, where there is grace. There we will receive mercy and find grace to help us just when we need it.
Thoughts for Reflection
- If you have lost your sense of purpose, of being of value to yourself, to others and to God, when did that happen? What made you decide you are no longer of worth?
- What barrier stands in the way of your deciding to see yourself as someone who is valued by God?
- What barrier stands in the way of your deciding to commit yourself to a higher purpose in your life?
- Are you willing to believe that God can bring healing to your spiritual wounds and renew a spirit of hope within you?
- Will you, in this moment, tell God your innermost secrets and ask God’s forgiveness?
Dear God, hear my confession. Here are the reasons I have given up on you, the reasons I have lost my sense of purpose . . . And here are the reasons I have given up on myself…
Lord, you are the God of creation. Create a new heart within me. Renew my spirit. Give me the courage to make a commitment to start over. Help me use the wisdom I have gained through suffering to help others. Help me believe that you have not forgotten me, even though I have turned away from you.
Hear my prayer. Teach me to love and care again. Amen