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Confession: The Key to Christian Community

“The pious fellowship permits no one to be a sinner. So everyone must conceal his sin from himself and from the fellowship. We dare not be sinners….So we remain alone with our sin, living in lies and hypocrisy.”

Dietrich Bonhoeffer penned these insightful words almost 100 years ago, making it clear that the reality of a ‘confessionless community’ was no less a problem then as it is today. But I think it’s possible we feel the weight of our isolation even more keenly today, due to the rise of social media. Not only do we not confess our sins, we work hard to present a version of ourselves digitally that would make the watching world envious. This encourages us to keep everyone at arms-length lest they get too close and see the cracks in our façade!

What we need…and what we fear…is for our Christian communities to be a place where we cast off the notion that we are somehow perfect, strong, sufficient, etc. and honestly share our sin struggles & burdens with those who will bear them with us! And this is not just the pathway to individual deliverance from sin and self, but to true, connection, communion, and community with other believers!

As Bonhoeffer says, “In confession the break-through to community takes place. Sin demands to have a man by himself. It withdraws him from the community. The more isolated a person is, the more destructive will be the power of sin over him, and the more deeply he becomes involved in it, the more disastrous is his isolation. Sin wants to remain unknown. It shuns the light. In the darkness of the unexpressed it poisons the whole being of a person.”

So, unconfessed sin isolates us from one another – one of the greatest means of grace God has given us to battle sin and enjoy his goodness! And on the flip side, genuine confession of sin allows us to ‘tap into’ the strength of other believers as well as creating within them a love for us in our brokenness. When a believer shares their sin & struggles – we see our own weakness in them and we are moved with compassion and love!

But the benefits of confession are not just horizontal (ie. grace received through others), genuine confession is also a means of killing the pride that keeps us from receiving the grace we have in the gospel. Again from Bonhoeffer, “In confession occurs the breakthrough to the Cross. The root of all sin is pride. I want to be my own law, I have a right to myself, my hatred, my desires and my desires, my life and my death. The mind and flesh of man are set on fire by pride; for it is precisely in his wickedness that man wants to be God. Confession in the presence of a brother is the profoundest kind of humiliation. It hurts, it cuts a man down, it is a dreadful blow to pride.”

And it is only in a position of humility and recognized weakness that we are able to receive the grace of God that he so freely lavishes on us in our fight against sin! So, if we desire to enjoy the grace of Christian community and the grace of gospel dependence, we will find genuine confession of sin to be an incredibly helpful tool to our ongoing joy in Christ!

So, the question is now, “Who are you confessing to?”

(In a subsequent post we’ll address the question of how to do this meaningfully!)

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