Misplaced Shame

The Church has at times been accused (and rightfully so) of shooting our wounded. The wounded being those who have stumbled or fallen in sin.  In those instances, we say to them, in effect, “We are so ashamed of you, that we cannot bear to be associated with you.  The presence of sin in your life brings shame upon us.  To spare our own shame, we need to put you down.”

 If perhaps our eyes have been opened to this wrongful tendency, we no longer take the mantle of shame upon ourselves, but we place it on them instead.  “We accept you and love you, and we will stand by you and help you through this.  But, boy, should you be ashamed of yourself!  Shame on you!”  As we stand in judgement over them, making sure they’re sufficiently contrite, we preach about a God who forgives them and accepts them exactly as they are, no matter what they’ve done.  It’s all very confusing for them, and they’re not likely to respond the way we had hoped, so after a while we put them out of their misery, shuffling them off to a farm in the country.

While these serious problems continue to plague the Church, it seems to me that it has become more prevalent these days to discard shame altogether.  “Hey, don’t worry about it,” we say.  “So you sinned; no big deal.  To be honest, we’re not even sure anymore if that’s actually even a sin.”  We’ve come a long way from the barbaric days when we’d kick someone out of the church for getting a DUI, or ship a pregnant teen off to a girl’s home.  There is no longer any shame associated with sin.  It’s practically a badge of our humanness.  Having an affair?  Go ahead and make it public knowledge; no one’s going to call you on it.  And if they do, they’re just being judgmental.  Have a bit too much to drink last night?  That’s okay, go ahead and upload those pictures to Facebook; it’d be hypocritical to act like it didn’t happen.  There is no shame in just being who you are; no reason to keep anything hidden from view.

Rather than placing shame on the community around the sinner, rather than heaping shame on the sinner themselves, and rather than throwing shame out the window, we should place the shame where it belongs: on the sin.  Sin is shameful.  We obviously should not sweep sin under the rug so we don’t have to look at it, but we shouldn’t drag it out into public view either.  Ephesians 5:12 says, “It is shameful even to talk about the things that ungodly people do in secret.” (NLT)  Those ungodly deeds are shameful, and shining a spotlight on them is shameful also.  They should be acknowledged in the proper circles, and dealt with discretely.  Shame should be removed by dealing with the sin, but not ignoring the shame, increasing the shame, or pretending it isn’t there.

Confession for the natural man

Benevolent and easy-going Father:
We have occasionally been guilty of errors of judgment.
We have lived under the deprivations of heredity and the disadvantages of environment.
We have sometimes failed to act in accordance with common sense.
We have done the best we could in the circumstances,
And have been careful not to ignore the common standards of decency;
And we are glad to think that we are fairly normal.
Do thou, O Lord, deal lightly with our infrequent lapses.
Be thy own sweet Self with those who admit they are not perfect;
According to the unlimited tolerances which we have a right to expect from thee.
And grant us as an indulgent Parent
That we may hereafter continue to live a harmless and happy life
And keep our self-respect.

from He Sent Leanness, by David Head, referenced in Mark (The NIV Application Commentary), by David Garland.

 

The original prayer of general confession from the 1662 Book of Common Prayer:

Almighty and most merciful Father,
We have erred, and strayed from thy ways like lost sheep,
We have followed too much the devices and desires of our own hearts,
We have offended against thy holy laws,
We have left undone those things which we ought to have done,
And we have done those things which we ought not to have done,
And there is no health in us:
But thou, O Lord, have mercy upon us miserable offenders;
Spare thou them, O God, which confess their faults, restore thou them that are penitent,
According to thy promises declared unto mankind in Christ Jesus our Lord:
And grant, O most merciful Father, for his sake,
That we may hereafter live a godly, righteous, and sober life,
To the glory of thy holy Name. Amen.

 

 

The Who, What, When, Where, Why of Confession

What is Confession?

Confession, at its core, is a statement or affirmation of what we believe. It can be a statement of what we believe to be right, i.e., a confession of faith, or it can be a statement of what we believe to be wrong, i.e., a confession of sin. The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, in its definition of confession, notes that confession is “uniting in a statement that has previously been made by someone else.”

Our most important confession is that Jesus Christ is Lord. Churches or groups of believers have at times written confessions that explain how they interpret God’s word, and provides a basis for agreement (the Augsburg Confession, Belgic Confession, and Westminster Confession are three examples of confessional statements that arose out of the Reformation).

Confession is also an admission of sin. Sometimes, it means revealing to others sin that was hidden. Sometimes others were well aware of the sin, and confession is an acknowledgement of wrongdoing, and an opportunity to agree that something truly was wrong.

What things are we to confess?

I don’t think there is anything that we shouldn’t confess. We should not hide our faith, and we should not hide our sin. The question, then, is about who to confess to, and in what setting.

To whom should we confess (God, individual, church)?
How, or where, should we confess (publicly or privately)?

There are examples in Scripture of both public confession and private confession. Private confession could be made in prayer to God, or between individuals.

  1. Sins that are against another person should be confessed to that person.
  2. Sins that are against the church body should be confessed to the church body.
  3. Sins that take place in the public eye should be confessed publicly.

Why should we confess our sin?

For starters, God commands us to. But there are two significant reasons why we should confess our sin, and understanding these two reasons can help us in determining who should hear our confession.

  1. Confess sin in order to achieve reconciliation. When unity has been severed, or damage has been done to another person or group of people, we need to confess our sin to them in order to be reconciled. The other side of the coin in reconciliation is forgiveness, which the offended party needs to offer. The order is not important (someone may confront you with your sin before you confess), but reconciliation requires both confession and forgiveness.
  2. All sin is offensive to God, so all sin should be confessed to God, but some sins also need to be confessed to other people, if those people have been hurt by our sin. If the sin was private, between you and God, then there is no need to reveal it to others, necessarily.

  3. Confess sin to keep from being dishonest. Sometimes, other people have no reason to believe that we have committed a certain sin, or that we haven’t committed a certain sin. Just because we have, doesn’t mean we need to tell them about it. However, there are also cases where someone may be led to believe that we have not committed a certain sin, and it would be dishonest to continue to give that false impression.

Heaven or Hell, by Choice

This tract was written by my grandfather, Laurance W. Long.

Laurance W. LongDear You:

Yes, dear you. You are dear to God. God loves man despite the fact that he is sinful and deserves to be punished. This can be understood as we realize that parents love their children even though they often do things that are wrong.

And God wants the best for errant man, even as parents want the best for their errant children.

When God created man, He gave him not only a body but an eternal soul and spirit, in His own image and likeness. With his body, man could easily relate to the earth. And by his spirit, he could have fellowship with God. He could have fellowship with God only by his spirit because God is a spirit and “the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto Him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned” (I Cor. 2:14). So man is both physical and spiritual, material and immaterial.

When God created man, He made him perfect. The Bible says, “God saw everything that He had made, and behold, it was very good” (Gen. 1:31).

In making man like unto Himself, God gave him a will, with the ability to think and reason and make choices. And with the ability to make choices, man could choose either right or wrong. God wanted man to live Him, but He wanted such love to come from a willing heart as a matter of choice, not because he had been programmed to do so like a robot. Thus, man was given a will. God an man then enjoyed fellowship together from willing hearts. They were like-minded and shared common interests: true fellowship and communion, for without like-mindedness there can be no fellowship: friendship, yes, but no fellowship.

Then Came a Problem: Sin and Death

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Homosexuality

I’ve been thinking a little more about the distinction between “homosexual identity” and “homosexual activity.” I’m confident that the latter is wrong, and trying to figure out what the correct response should be to the former. However, I think it’s a mistake to try to shape my beliefs about identity solely based upon my beliefs about activity; that strikes me as a backwards approach. Our identity in Christ is not defined by a list of do’s and dont’s; rather, the commands that God gives to us are a result of our identity.

So, I don’t want to reach the conclusion that homosexual activity is wrong simply because the Bible condemns it. I would like to first ascertain what God’s intention is for our sexual identity, and then see what that tells us about proper sexual activity.

The Bible tells us right from the beginning that God created humans as either male or female (Gen 1:27), and it was intended that they be united as one (Gen 2:24). Jesus confirms this in Matt 19:4-5 and Mark 10:6-8, and Paul repeats it in Eph 5:31. Both Paul and Peter give instructions for proper husband and wife relationships on numerous occasions (I Cor. 7, I Cor 11, Eph 5, I Tim 2, I Pet 3, etc.). We also see marriage touched on in Proverbs and Song of Solomon; and through the prophets, some of Jesus’ parables, Revelation, etc., we see the symbolism that marriage gives us of our relationship to Christ.

Based on what I see in the Bible, it seems pretty clear to me that God has distinct roles for men and women, and intends for our sexual identity to be heterosexual in nature, and for marriage to be between a man and a woman. To behave otherwise distorts the proper view of ourselves, each other, and God. Hence, the verses that condemn homosexual activity are consistent with the sexual identity the God intended for us.

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Divorce

I think the strongest case against divorce is to look at what marriage symbolizes. God uses imagery to help us understand our relationship with Him. We relate to Him as children to a parent or as servants to a master. We understand these relationships because we experience them every day on earth. There is no greater image of our relationship with God than that of a husband and wife. Of all the parallels that are drawn in scripture, this is the one that gets the most attention and the one that comes the closest to reflecting what our relationship with God was designed to be.

God says He will never leave us or forsake us, and scripture is filled with His continual pursuit of His chosen people (despite their desertion and unfaithfulness). For a husband or wife to divorce their spouse, flies in the face of all that marriage is supposed to signify.

I find it interesting that Matthew, Mark, and Luke all record the occasion when the Pharisees questioned Jesus about divorce, but Matthew is the only one who mentions the exception for maritial unfaithfulness. Clearly, while Jesus made this allowance, the thing that really stuck out was His emphatic insistence that husbands and wives should never separate (“what God has joined together, let man not separate”).

When it comes to “what’s done is done, can I get remarried?” I think there are a couple of slippery slopes to be avoided. One is the idea that as long as the other party gets remarried, and therefore “becomes unfaithful,” you are therefore free. This would open the door to marry and divorce willy-nilly provided you always make sure your ex gets remarried first. It also places a great deal of importance on timing; ie., who was unfaithful first. It essentially means two people can take the exact same actions, but one of them is guilty of adultery and the other gets off scot free. This clearly is not what God had in mind. I think the allowance for divorce in the case of marital unfaithfulness is restricted to when it occurs in the context of the marital relationship. I don’t think it is a “way out” for two people who have severed their relationship, regardless of whether they are technically (either legally or in God’s eyes) still married or not.

I also think the “lust = adultery = just cause for divorce” concept is a slippery slope. When Jesus said in Matthew 5:28 that lust is equivalent to committing adultery, the word for adultery is moicheuo?. In Matthew 5:32 and 19:9, the word for unfaithfulness or fornication is porneia. Even without looking at the Greek words, I would have a problem with this concept because it again opens up a huge “loophole” to allow unhappy people to get out of their marriage, and I don’t believe that’s what God had in mind.

Does that mean someone who made a mistake and married the wrong person, or made a mistake and got divorced when they should have stayed married is doomed to suffer the consequences for the rest of their life? Well, at the risk of sounding harsh, I definitely think it’s a viewpoint that should be considered. Nowhere does God promise to remove the consequences of our own sin, or even the sin of others. He is more concerned with our holiness than He is with our happiness. The truth of the matter is, we are most likely to be happy when we are holy.

Here are links to scriptures that talk about divorce and scholarly articles on the subject:

Nave’s Topical Bible

Torrey’s Topical Handbook

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia: Divorce in the OT

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia: Divorce in the NT

Baker’s Evangelical Dictionary

Two Wolves

This modern-day parable was posted on bibleforums.org:

One evening an old Cherokee told his grandson about a battle that goes on
inside people. He said, “My son, the battle is between 2 “wolves” inside us
all.

One is Evil. It is anger, envy, jealousy, sorrow, regret,greed, arrogance,
self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and
ego.

The other is Good. It is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility,
kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion and faith.”

The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his
grandfather:”Which wolf wins?”

The old Cherokee simply replied, “The one you feed.”

A well-meaning individual replied that the story was not biblical. I submit that it can be interpreted biblically.

This story, the origins of which are unknown (possibly invented by a preacher as an illustration), is not unbiblical. The full context of what Paul said in Romans 7 helps us see that.

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