Best of Daily Reflections: Time to Fess Up
When you become aware of your guilt in any of these ways, you must confess your sin. Then you must bring to the LORD as the penalty for your sin a female from the flock, either a sheep or a goat. This is a sin offering with which the priest will purify you from your sin, making you right with the LORD.
When I was about ten years old, I was riding in the back of Mrs. Hurst's station wagon on the way to my Cub Scout meeting. My fellow scouts and I were jammed in together, laughing and carrying on as only ten-year-old boys can do. Then, in an inspired moment, I made a nasty finger sign out the back window, impressing my friends and distressing the driver of the car behind us. Unfortunately, Mrs. Hurst's car was equipped with a rear view mirror, and she saw what I had done. Quickly she pulled the car over, rebuked me for my inappropriateness, and sent me home.
I felt terrible. I knew I had done something wrong and deserved my punishment. I also knew my mother would be disappointed in me. So, when I got home, I knew it was time to fess up. I explained to my mother what happened and why I was home early from my scout meeting. But then I chickened out and fudged on one tiny little detail. I told her that another boy had made the finger sign, and that Mrs. Hurst wrongly accused me. My mother looked at me as only a mother can, surely reading my mind. But I stuck by my story. I just couldn't find the courage to confess.
Though I'm forty plus years older than the boy whom Mrs. Hurst sent home for indecent behavior, I still hate confessing my failures. Even if I'm caught red-handed, my first inclination is to spin a story so as to get out of trouble. I just don't like to be wrong, and I don't like admitting when I fail at anything.
Scripture consistently commends confession of sin. We find this, for example, in Leviticus 5. The chapter begins by listing various sins done either knowingly or inadvertently. Then it advises: "When you become aware of your guilt in any of these ways, you must confess your sin. Then you must bring to the LORD as the penalty for your sin a female from the flock . . ." (5:5-6a). The confession mentioned here appears to be a public one, made before God, the priest, and any others who are present. Notice that offering a sacrifice is not enough to bring about purification. Confession is required.
Today, we do not have to offer an animal sacrifice in order to atone for our sins. Jesus is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. His once-for-all sacrifice counts for us. Yet if we wish to experience the reality of forgiveness, if we want to be purified from our sin, then we too need to confess. As it says in the first letter of John: "If we claim we have no sin, we are only fooling ourselves and not living in the truth. But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness" (1:8-9). This text envisions private confession to God. Other biblical passages encourage us to confess also to each other (James 5:16, for example).
Confession does not earn our forgiveness. That was earned through the unique sacrifice of Christ. But confession does allow us to experience the benefits of his sacrifice. When we confess, we humble ourselves before the Lord, recognizing our need of him. When we confess, we open our hearts to God's grace. Confession allows us to receive, not only forgiveness, but also cleansing and healing that help us not to sin again.
As you think about your life today, as you are honest with yourself before God, is it time to fess up?
QUESTIONS FOR FURTHER REFLECTION: Do you find it hard or easy to confess your sins to God? Why? What helps you to confess honestly and freely? Are there sins you need to confess today?
PRAYER: Gracious and merciful God, thank you for the clear teaching of Scripture that calls us to confess. Though we don't bring sacrifices to you as were once required of your people, we are still in need of confession.
Lord, you know that confessing our sin is something we'd rather avoid. Sometimes we can't even bring ourselves to say the words that describe our sin, even though we realize you already know what we have done. So help us, Lord, by your Spirit, to tell you the truth about where we have failed you.
Thank you for the firm promise that if we confess our sin to you, you are faithful and will forgive us and cleanse us. Thank you for the once-for-all sacrifice of Jesus, in whom we have new life.
All praise be to you, forgiving God of truth and love. Amen.