When We Confess OUR Sins
In his book Blue Like Jazz, Donald Miller relates a moment when he and some Christian friends conducted an experiment on their college campus in Portland, Oregon. They set up a confessional/photo booth at a Renaissance fair, dressed as monks and invited people inside.
But when the curious would step into the booth they soon discovered it wasn't there as an opportunity for them to confess their sins, it was an opportunity for Donald and his friend to confess all the ways that Christians and the Church had let people down, wounded others, ostracized various groups, or otherwise alienated people from the Gospel, rather than drawing them to it.
The results were amazing. Tony Kriz, one of the participants in the experiment later wrote this about it:
Over the weekend dozens of students slipped in and then out of our booth, each surprised and expectant. Some stayed for just a photo 1-2 few minutes. Most lingered as long as half an hour. Without exception, each one offered us the gift of forgiveness. It was like nothing I had ever experienced before. It is a great irony that there is nothing in life that I dread more than begging someone to forgive me, and every time I succumb to the dread, I rob myself of one of life’s great treasures.
One of the great temptations that most of us have when we find ourselves in conflict with others is to recount their sins, to highlight their transgressions and to point out all of the ways that they have done wrong to strain the relationship.
If we are to experience true reconciliation with God and others, we can't keep on confessing other people's sins--we have to confess our own.
Jesus even connected this kind of repentance and reconciliation with worship. He essentially told his followers that if they were at odds with someone else, they were preventing themselves from fully engaging with God.
Matthew 5: 23-24 “This is how I want you to conduct yourself in these matters. If you enter your place of worship and, about to make an offering, you suddenly remember a grudge a friend has against you, abandon your offering, leave immediately, go to this friend and make things right. Then and only then, come back and work things out with God.
As a Lenten exercise today, take a few moments now and then to pray this ancient prayer from St. Ephrem of Syria:
"Yea, O Lord and King, grant that I may perceive my own transgressions, and judge not my brother..."
And may the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you now and always. Amen.