My wife recorded an episode of a new TV show called “I Forgive You.” The show tells the true stories of men and women practicing forgiveness in all kinds of instances: bullying, abuse, stealing, murder, etc. She was watching the episode this morning while I was getting ready to go to work. The first story was about a woman who, as a teenager, was bullied, picked on, and insulted on a regular basis by other students in her school. For years, she carried the shame and hurt of their abuse. In this episode, the woman invites her former classmates to meet her at their former school so that she can tell them face to face that she forgives them. Of the 30 some former classmates that were invited, only 2 showed up.
At this point, I have to confess my skepticism and frustration with “reality” television. I am not sure that “reality” exists when there is a camera filming your every word and action for broadcast across national television. And so it was, this morning, that I expressed out loud with sarcasm, “And these two showed up probably because they were more interested in getting on TV than being forgiven!” Maybe I am right, but I do hope I am wrong.
However, I have found myself thinking the rest of the day about those folks who didn’t come. The host of the show assumed by her attitude that their absence reflected some kind of belief on their part that they didn’t need to be there. And maybe that is so. Maybe they didn’t feel they needed to be forgiven. Maybe they weren’t interested in talking about events of so long ago. But then another thought came to mind: I wonder how many didn’t show up because they didn’t want people today to know that they were the kid who used to bully another student? They didn’t want that label pinned to them.
We live in a world that will define people by one day, one act, one word. One moment can become all anybody remembers about a person. In such a world, how can the church talk about the importance of confessing our sins? Isn’t there a danger that by confessing our sins, all anybody will ever be able to think about is our sins? Most of us would probably just assume keep our sins to ourselves, tucked away in private, rather than risk having them define us.
David has an affair with Bathsheba that leads to David ordering his general Joab to abandon Uriah, Bathsheba’s husband, in the midst of battle so that he will be killed. Adultery, treason, conspiracy to commit murder – David was the guy on “Law and Order” that you cheered for him to get what he deserved. But David’s sin doesn’t remain hidden. The prophet Nathan walks right into David’s palace and exposes his sin before David’s very eyes.
We would expect this to be the moment that would forever define David. Forget about Goliath, forget about Jerusalem, forget about the expansion of Israelite territory, forget about his friendship with Jonathan.
But we don’t forget those things. We remember this moment, but it is not all that we remember about David. Perhaps that is because, when Nathan confronts him, David doesn’t deny his behavior or try to excuse it or place the blame somewhere else. When his sin is revealed, he stands up and says, “I have sinned against the LORD.” He owns it, he confesses it. He takes a risk that he will always be the king who had an affair and ordered his own soldier killed.
Nathan replies, “Now the LORD has put away your sin”. Nathan lets David know that there will still be consequences for his actions, consequences that cannot be avoided. However, Nathan also tells David that God will not define David by this event, by this sin. When David is willing to confess his sin, God is willing to put it away.
Confession is something that scares us because we believe we will be labeled as our sin. As a result, we usually end up carrying the sin within us, allowing it to own us. Instead, confession should be what allows us to let go of sin’s hold on us so that we can find our true identity through Christ. By owning up to our sin, sin no longer can own us.
What do we need to confess to God today? Go to him in prayer. As you pour your heart out to him, know that He puts away everything you turn over to him. That sin no longer owns you, no longer defines you.