The Holy Act of Confession

“Is he really sorry?  Or is he just sorry he got caught?”  Such words are commonly spoken whenever we hear of someone’s confession.  And as troubling as the implicit accusation is, it is even more bothersome when there is an explicit assumption that the confession is less than genuine.

In today’s social media frenzy, when a Christian leader confesses sin, self-appointed “discernment bloggers” circle like sharks in bloody water.  Like their saltwater counterparts they are searching for fresh meat to feed their insatiable appetites.  They dissect a confession with the veracity of a first-year seminarian parsing his first Greek text.  But rather than looking for infinitives and participles, they scour the confession looking for signs of sincerity.  Or more often, searching for signs of insincerity.

And like their ancient pharisaical ancestors, they always find what they are seeking.

Boy, oh boy.  Would they have had a field day with King David’s conversation with Nathan the prophet.

When the old preacher came to the palace for a little loving confrontation, King David’s first response was that the ewe-stealing millionaire should be killed.  But his second statement was, “I have sinned against the Lord!”

Modern day Pharisees would assume the king was a fraud because his confession was not immediate and unsolicited.  It was only given after a prophetic confrontation.  “Why, if David had been sincere Nathan wouldn’t have had to retort, ‘Thou art the man!’”  That would be the accusation today.

“Besides, David only said he ‘sinned’ but he was not specific.  He didn’t call the sin by its name!  He didn’t confess to lying, lusting, fornicating, scheming, murder, or concealment.  The lack of specificity reveals his insincerity!  Gotcha, David!”

But who among us really knows why David’s first response was not as forthright as it should have been?  Could it be that he was a man of flesh and blood as well as being a man after God’s own heart?

Could it be that the guilt and shame over his trespasses drove him to further concealment?

Could it be that by now his love for Bathsheba was genuine and that to confess his sins was to simultaneously publicize hers?

Could it be that the initial response was part of God’s way of getting David to see what he deserved?  In other words, maybe God knew his first response would not be his final response but the Lord was working through it all to cultivate a repentant heart.

Could it be that the reason his confession tarried is the same reason ours often does?

Confession of sin is not a natural act.  It is a supernatural act wrought by the power of God in our lives.  It must always be wrested from us despite various levels of our fleshly resistance.

Sometimes the Spirit of God pulls a confession from us as easily as a child pulls a fresh blade of grass.  At other times, the confession comes up more like a tractor pulling out an old lightered stump with a chain, a backhoe, and a puff of black diesel smoke.

But whenever a confession of sin is made, by whatever means the Spirit deems necessary, rest assured we've been in the presence of God.  So we should be very cautious about attributing the holy act of confession to the work of the flesh.

As we read David’s confession with a proper view of inspiration, there are only two options.  Either David’s confession was genuine, even though it was generic, delayed, and prompted by external circumstances, or the Spirit of God aided the king in covering up his sin by recording his false confession in Psalms 32 and 51.

Rather than nitpicking our way through a statement of confession, I submit a few responses that are more Biblical and beneficial.

1.  We should rejoice that God is still in the sin-forgiving business.  That’s a “business” we all need.

2.  We should pray for the person(s) in the center of the confession as well as the inevitable people affected by the situation.

3.  We should thank the Lord that He has shown His mercy even in the process of discipline and exposure.

4.  We should examine our own life.  As tragic as public sin can be, it can serve as a reminder to strengthen weak areas in our own spiritual journey.  To “take heed lest we fall.”

A friend contacted me regarding the recent moral failure of a hero.  He commented, “It’s not wise to comment publicly until you know the whole story.”  I completely agree.  And the reality is, we will never know the “whole story” about another person’s life because we don’t know their heart’s condition toward God.  Truth is, we don’t even know our own heart.

To suggest otherwise is not discernment regardless of what the blogger or “open letter” writer claims.  It’s old-fashioned phariseeism in a new-fangled technological cloak.