Confession: Breakthrough to the Cross
This is an artist's depiction of the humiliation of Jesus . . . on a Catholic church near my home.
The root of sin is pride. The inclination or thought pattern that underlies pride is, as Bonhoeffer says, “I want to be my own law, I have a right to my self, my hatred and my desires, my life and my death.” This is the inclination that lay within Adam and Eve, and that was stirred up by the serpent. “You can be as gods.”
But confession is the breakthrough to the Cross because it is the willing acceptance of, in a word, humiliation. Now, this is a very hard word for some people. After all, no one likes to be humiliated. To be, instead of “as gods,” as nothing. To make no claim, have no defense. To confess one’s sin openly to a brother or sister in the Lord is to say, without excuses, here am I, and here are my sins. This runs against every inclination of the flesh. Bonhoeffer says, “In the confession of concrete sins the old man dies a painful, shameful death before the eyes of a brother.”
And yet, because it is so hard, because every inclination of the flesh works to deny us this blessing, we scheme like mad to avoid it if we can. If we cannot hide (perhaps by serving more at church, or some other means of publicly demonstrating our piety), we rationalize. My sin is no worse than that of other men, we tell ourselves. Not so bad as many, in fact. Thus we have create for ourselves the category of the better sinner, for who need never feel humbled by his sin, let alone "humilated.".
But Christ was not ashamed to suffer publicly the humiliation of the Cross. Bonhoeffer says: “It is nothing else but our fellowship with Jesus Christ that leads us to the ignominious dying that comes in confession, in order that we may in truth share in his cross. The Cross of Jesus Christ destroys all pride.”
According to Bonhoeffer, in confession we find our Christ-likeness. Not that Christ was sinful and needed to confess, but that we accept the judgment of God for sin. And is this not the burden that, though it seems so heavy, turns out to be light?
Bonhoeffer says, “The old man dies, but it is God who has conquered him.” Now, through the word of forgiveness, spoken through a brother, we rise from death. Now, having shared in his death, we share in his resurrection. This is all that Paul really desired. This is the death to self, and living to God.
Next up: Confession is the breakthrough to new life.