Monday, August 18, 2014
Confession Is Dangerous. So Is Forgiveness.
There are plenty of people running around attempting dangerous feats. Bungee jumping, base jumping, jumping out of an airplane, racing, skiing, boating, climbing--adventure sports are out there for those who want to take the risk. And plenty of people are willing, putting it all on the line.
If, however, you want to take a real risk, if you want to truly put everything on the line, then try confession.
I don't mean making a public confession, telling the whole world about your private sins. That may seem dangerous at first, but the one you sinned against is not really being engaged, and you are bound to find much more sympathy than condemnation.
I mean approaching the person to whom you have done wrong and telling them what you have done. Look them in the eyes and confess, admit your guilt, lay it all out there for them to hear. Tell them just how awful you acted, how evil your intentions were. Let them know.
That is dangerous. It is one of the biggest risks that one can take because in confession we are giving up our rights. We give up our rights to hide behind misunderstandings about what sins were committed or who committed them. We are admitting: "It was me." No more ambiguity.
We give up our rights to make excuses or to pass the buck. We accept full responsibility for our own thoughts, words, and deeds, even if no one else will.
That is a gamble. It is a tremendous risk because we never know how they will react. What if they explode in rage? What if they take my confession and use it against me? What if no one else admits their part in the whole mess? What if they do not forgive me?
And they might not forgive. They should, if they are Christians. Jesus commands forgiveness from one Christian to another multiple times in the gospels, especially in Matthew 18. Yet not everyone can do this. That is because the only thing more dangerous than confession is forgiveness.
Forgiveness is risky because in absolving another of the sins that they have committed against us we are relinquishing a whole host of other rights. We are giving up our right to gossip, to run around telling every busy-body in town what great wrongs have been done to us.
We give up our rights to hold a grudge. Maybe we wouldn't tell anyone else, but we might be tempted to nurse resentment deep inside, or just among our own families, with our husband or wife. Only they would know how much we really hated that guy for what he did. When forgiveness has been granted that is no longer allowed.
We are giving up our rights to revenge. We may no longer exact vengeance upon the one who has confessed. No eye, no tooth. Just mercy.
I suppose we should not be surprised that confession and forgiveness are both so dangerous. They were, after all, purchased at the dearest price. The opportunity of confession is allowed to us because God took the dangerous step of becoming a man. Forgiveness is given because Jesus risked everything, forfeited everything, to atone for our sin.
God has nothing to confess to us. But He has plenty to forgive. And that is what He does. He gives up His divine right to punish the guilty, to seek vengeance upon those who would murder His Son. He shows mercy to sinners like me.
Confession and forgiveness are the two most dangerous practices one can engage in. But they are worth the risk.