Tuesday, September 21, 2010


The word confession can bring up a lot of feelings in people, often negative ones. That's usually because it's associated with sin. I most frequently hear people use the term confession to be synonymous with saying something they've done wrong.

However, that is not always true. While to confess can be to acknowledge one's sins, it can also mean to acknowledge and profess one's faith or beliefs (don't believe me, here's some definitions). This is actually how the term was used quite frequently in early church writings.

These uses actually work quite well together. We can confess a sin while confess our faith. However, in society today, we focus on the first half, usually associated with shame. We like to tear ourselves and others down. God gives us the opportunity to build ourselves and each other back up through a confession of faith.

What would happen if we started using the term confession to emphasize the building up of people rather than their tearing down? How does this affect our theology when approaching the concept of confession?


  1. It seems to me that an awful lot of Christian confession is like a form of spiritual bulimia. There's a binge-purge aspect to it--a great cleansing ritual that feels oh so religious. And then a slide back into the old pattern. The binge of sin and then the purge of confession--a cycle that goes on and on.

    As I tell my business students when talking about financial bubbles, a cycle in not a trend. There's lots of activity with breathtaking highs and devastating lows but it all ends up right where it started. And some types of confession are very much like that.

    The real goal in our spiritual life is to move forward into greater connection with God and reflection of his love to others. An anguished reflection on our sins and baring them to others helps sometimes.

    But not always. We may focus on the negatives in ways that reinforce them. Or we may dump things on others in ways that do more harm than good--we feel better but they feel worse. Or we may lose sight of the actual goal thinking that some sort of self-flagellation is the point.

    The big question we need to ask ourselves about confession is if we are doing something that actually moves us forward spiritually over time. If it's doing that, then it's good. But if it's simply part of a binge-purge cycle that keeps us too focused on the negatives and stuck in them, then we need to take another look.




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