CONFESSION IS NOT REPENTANCE

I’ve been in the habit of confusing confession with repentance. They go together, but they are not the same thing.

Not only did I confuse confession and repentance, I left out lament. All three are vital and necessary to effect change.

Neither confession, nor lament, nor repentance has to do with shame. Shame is the belief that one is unlovable, beyond the reach of love. Shame is toxic, demonic. 

Confession is admitting that what we’ve done is wrong. Not only admitting what I personally chose to do or say, but what the systems I’m a part of have chosen to do and say. I am not an island. I’m a part of an immediate family, a family of origin, a culture, a society, a nation, and a world. At various times in my life, I am a part of institutions, neighborhoods, friendship groups, work teams, and so on. 

I’ve done and said things that are wrong, unethical, immoral, or just not nice. The systems of which I am a part – those nations, neighborhoods, family groupings, and workplaces – have also done or promoted things that are wrong, unethical, immoral, or simply not very nice.

Confession means I honestly admit that. No sugarcoating; no excuses. To whom do I confess? God and those I have hurt. I confess to God and those hurt by the systems of which I am a part. Confession means apologizing to my wife when I’m inattentive, to my colleague when I’m overly critical, to the Black community for the racism of my privileged station, to Native Americans for the genocide of ancestors, and to the LGBTQ community for the vitriol of my faith community.

Confession is essential because it allows us to realize the harm we have caused. It opens the door for empathy and understanding. It is not meant to leave us down on ourselves, guilty, or ashamed; but instead, kindhearted, understanding, and sympathetic.

Lament is the expression of grief. Lament creates space to grieve the harm caused by neglect, selfishness, greed, bigotry, unforgiveness, or social injustice. If I truly enter into confession, it will produce empathy for the victimized, whether individual or collective, and empathy will express itself in lament.

Confession is not repentance. Lament is not repentance. Confession allows me to realize the harm done; lament allows me to express grief over the harm done. 

Repentance repairs the harm down.

As much as is possible, repentance undoes the harm. It aims to make amends, restore, repay, rebuild, reconcile, set things to rights. 

While talking heads scream at one another, while dueling protestors shout insults and hurl bottles, while guns are brandished and lies are repeated, we who seek to follow Jesus are called to confess, lament, and repent in order that love, peace, and justice may rain down upon us all. 

About Dr. Larry Taylor

Radical Anabaptist Jesus Freak Red Letter Christian, sailor, thinker, pastor, teacher, chaplain, counselor, husband, father, grandfather

Posted on September 6, 2020, in anabaptist, apologetics, Bible, Bible Teaching, bodily resurrection, Christianity, creation, Jesus, Justice, Kingdom Life, kingdom of God, parables, Peace Shalom Hesed, Poetry, Prayer, Prophecy, Spirituality, The Cross, Theodicy. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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