You & Your Family

What true confession means

Apr 2010    

“I HAVE SOMETHING TO TELL YOU,” he said in a tone that sounded more like making a request as much as it was a statement of fact. I had been counselling this man and his wife for the last year. They had marital problems for some time and were first referred to me because his son was suicidal. The fact that he had an extra-marital relationship was known to both his wife and me. So what else did I not know?

“I suppose you are wondering why I haven’t come home to my family,” he said, before telling me that he had a child from his illicit relationship. I felt as if he was making his confession.

He was raised a devout Roman Catholic, served as an altar boy, partook of Holy Communion regularly and said his confessions as and when he needed. However, when he was “living in sin”, to use his own words, he abstained from taking Holy Communion. He took this religious observance so seriously that he knew that it was not right to join in this ceremony whilst his sin was not dealt with.

It was interesting to note that before he made a special appointment to see me individually, he had seen his priest to make his confession. Also, that after our meeting, he went to speak to his wife to ask for her forgiveness.

This encounter taught me a few lessons. The first is that sin drives a wedge between me, the sinner, and those whom I have hurt. In this instance he knew he had hurt his wife, his son and his Heavenly Father. For this man, the weight of this burden was so heavy that he felt that he had finally to come clean and own up to it.

The second lesson is a reminder that we need to confess our wrong-doing in an effort to rebuild the broken relationship. Often times, we do not, because of denial of any wrong-doing, pride, fear of consequences; we may even justify our actions.

The third lesson is that the penitent should not flinch from making his confession even in the face of a possible strong reaction when the truth is revealed.

With this client, after speaking with his wife, he broke off his extra-marital relationship and returned home. A few months later, with the initial issues that first troubled his marriage still not resolved, his wife filed for divorce. I know that this client was regretful of the outcome. Still, I do not think that he would have chosen to keep this secret hidden any longer. His revelation had allowed him to restore his relationship with his son and with God. In making his confession, he took responsibility for his action and faced the consequences.

As believers, we can take encouragement from the verse in 1 John 1:9 that God will forgive our sins if we confess to Him with penitence and contrition. And even though the response of those whom we have hurt is uncertain, it is still our duty to make our humble confession.

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