“If we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us. My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.” -1 John 1:5-2:2
Jesus came to remove our guilt and to cover our shame. He accomplished this through his sacrifice on the cross. Jesus’s blood can wash us clean of all our impurity. However, to access his grace we must confess our sins and become forgiven. On the other side of confession is freedom.
One of the biggest complaints people have against the church is that it is full of hypocrites. Jesus in fact coined the term. A “hypocrite,” in the Greek, means an actor that wears a mask. Jesus called the religious leaders of his day actors who put on a mask in order to look holy but, in reality, their souls were corrupt. To avoid hypocrisy, we must be willing to confess our shortcomings. To confess means to take off our masks and acknowledge what God already knows about us. God knows we are all sinners in need of grace. Churches must have a confessional culture in order to avoid hypocrisy and allow God’s presence to redeem our brokenness. To create a confessional community there needs to be trust, complete transparency, and the knowledge that no sin is too big for the grace of Jesus Christ.
Often times, when Christians confess, it is a generic prayer rather than one that shares the specifics of what they did wrong. From my personal experience of confessing my sins, from helping others experience forgiveness, and from what the Bible says; it is vital to be specific in what it is we have done wrong when we confess. A partial confession leads to partial freedom. But when we confess the specific sin before Jesus Christ, we can have his power wash us completely clean of the stain.
One of the major problems with Western Christianity is that it emphasizes too much the individual over the community. Often, when people confess their sins it is just between themselves and God. Confession must be done with another Christian. I do not believe you need to specifically confess to a pastor or a priest, but you must confess and share your sinful secrets with another brother and sister in Christ that you can trust. The first time I confessed specific sins to the church family, was when I was a freshman in college. I shared my sins with my small group. They did not judge me or look at me differently after I shared my sins. But they simply told me that I am forgiven and accepted in Jesus Christ. After confessing my sins specifically with others and not just with God, I felt like my soul took a shower.
It is important that when someone is confessing their sins to you that you do not judge them or shame them. Rather, show them the love and acceptance that Jesus Christ has towards all. It is also important when someone confesses their sins to you that you pronounce out loud that they are forgiven in Jesus name and then pray with them (John 20:23). There is power in the name of Jesus, to forgive sin. Finally, if you have never confessed your sins with other Christians. What are you waiting for? I write these things not to shame you but for you to find the complete freedom and to claim the forgiveness there is in Jesus Christ. Jesus is our atoning sacrifice that removes our guilt, breaks our shame, and makes us right before God.