When we look at divisions in the church, what do we think of? For me, it's easy to focus on areas where I would want other groups to see the advantages of my own point of view. (Do we want others to see the errors of their ways because it confirms that we are right?) But what if I looked at the other side? What if there are advantages to someone else's point of view?
With that in mind, I wanted to take a look at the practice of Confession. Some people may not belong to groups that practice confession at all.
So consider what happens to us -- or to someone we love -- after doing
something truly inexcusably wrong.
If a wrong is defended, it becomes a living part of us.
If a wrong is excused, it is accepted and will be repeated.
If a wrong is ignored, it stays with us.
If a wrong is rejected, only then does it leave us.
We would do well to forgive ourselves only after we have rejected the wrong, not before.
While some Protestant groups have confession, it is unusual for it to be private confession. It is more often a public confession in which common sins are discussed at a common level. That is to say, it's awfully generic -- possibly too generic for us to receive the full benefits of actually confessing and rejecting our own particular faults. The Roman Catholics and Eastern Orthodox still commonly have private confession.
So, what are the benefits of private confession? It allows us to see -- more, confronts us with -- the realities of our own character. We gain in both honesty and humility. We lose arrogance and gain perspective. It builds our compassion for others, renews our relationships and directs us towards healing and reconciliation. And if there is a confessor -- someone who hears our confessions -- that person can hold us accountable in the future. With forgiveness, there is cleansing and renewal. We cannot "come clean" without acknowledging that we were wrong.
"If we confess our sins, God is faithful and just to forgive our sins, and cleanse us from all unrighteousness."
On the other side of the divides in our churches, there are things we can learn from each other.