Day 27: We’re Connected to Grow Together — By Confessing To Each Other

Point to Ponder: The purpose of confession is not disgrace, but grace.
Verse to Remember: “Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.” — James 5:16 (NIV)
Question to Consider: If God is speaking to you today about a hidden area of your life that needs to be confessed, what are you going to do about it?
[Read More] thoughts on Day 27 of Rick Warren’s 40 Days of Community, including a radical understanding of confession and reconciliation.

Perhaps the most common criticism of the “40 Days” campaigns is that they don’t go into enough depth. I sympathize with that viewpoint, but frankly it is really, REALLY hard to create something that can be a) absorbed, and b) relevant to millions of people. I think Rick does an admirable job of picking the right topics and focusing on the bottom-line issues with the greatest impact. Certainly, when I’ve approached his devotionals with a spirit of humility and willingness to learn and apply those truths to my life, God has done significant work.

That said, “confession” is one of those topics where I found myself wishing he’d gone a little deeper, since it is a particular favorite of mine. Still, I realize he only has so much space. Then again, that’s why I have this blog, so I can go deeper — assuming I don’t lose the attention of my readers!

I have long been fascinated by the concept of reconciliation, which includes both today’s topic of confession and tomorrow’s on forgiveness. In fact, I would go so far as to claim that the ability to practice reconciliation (in both directions) is the foundational skill of Christianity: more important than bible study, evangelism, prayer, or even worship. Note that those aren’t important — they are essential! — but they all need to flow out of (and into) the well of reconciliation. To me, reconciliation is the defining aspect of Christianity: as far as I’ve been able to discover, no other religion starts with God forgiving us (though some end with that, after sacrifice).

In that context, confession is submitting both our reason and our will to God’s truth as the beginning of reconciliation. I used to think ‘reason’ was easy and ‘will’ was hard, but I’ve learned that both can be a challenge. To me, confession is less about identifying what is wrong and more about recognizing what is right. It is walking in the light, so we can see what God’s way of dealing with a situation is — which may be totally different than our naive preconceptions! That is, confession can be hard intellectual work, because we are striving to understand God’s mind in the matter. Of course, at the same time we have to be doing the difficult volitional work of releasing our pride and submitting to God’s purposes, which often complicates the other.

That may be a bit more than most people think of when it comes to confession, but I believe it is essential for the larger work of reconciliation, which I believe includes intellectual, volitional, emotional, and practical components — i.e., mind, heart, soul, and strength. Thus, confession brings about unity of mind and heart — both with God and each other — so that we have a common platform for growing together.

Of course, sometimes we know perfectly well what to do — and why — yet still fail to do it. Just because I understand confession doesn’t mean I always practice it. 🙂 However, this thing I do: when I am confronted (either by people or circumstances), I — well, after working through denial — seek to enter into God’s presence, and have Him show me His heart in this area, and where my heart is falling short. Interestingly, the most common cause of short-falling (i.e., sin) is lack of forgiveness on my part, which cuts me off from the flow of God’s grace for myself and others. But that’s a topic for another day — tomorrow, as it happens. Today, we confess.

Prayer: God, I just want to confess that I have failed to cultivate the habit of confession with you and others. There’s many things I know I do wrong — that cause myself, others, and you pain — yet I suppress the knowledge and keep going on my own path, rather than turning to you for healing and restoration. Part of the reason may well be that I fear disgrace rather than grace. Or that I’ve grown cynical with despair, and don’t believe change is possible. Open the eyes of my heart, Lord, that I may know that you are for me, not against me. I confess that you are good, and your mercy endures forever. I confess that you are great, and your authority knows no bounds. I submit myself to you — to your love, power and wisdom — and ask you to redeem my mind and my heart. Help me to find the right ways to confess to my brothers and sisters, that you may heal my body and my soul. In Jesus name — and by his forgiveness — I pray. Amen.