I don’t really like confessing my sins. It’s a lot like going to the dentist, which I didn’t mind until last October. I sat in the exam chair, looking up at the X-rays and trying to process what my dentist was saying. Not me, I thought, not after thirty-two years. The tiny spot on the X-ray, though, refused to illuminate. My dental sins had found my out. After years of not flossing, I had a cavity.
The problem with confessing is that it requires us to face the decay inside. A pearly exterior doesn’t matter—how often we go to church or the amount of our charitable donations. Confession, like X-rays, looks for the evil rotting beneath the surface.
Maybe we read our Bible several mornings a week and feel pretty “spiritual,” but that’s like showing up to God’s Dental with two rows of shiny teeth. He’s more concerned with what’s under the enamel. His radiographs might find that we’re rolling out of bed, not to hear from the God we love, but to manipulate him—we give up twenty minutes of our time and expect him, in return, to answer our prayers. Our devotions, held up to his light-box, might actually reveal self-centeredness.
But, this is an uncomfortable thing to do—inviting the Holy Spirit to X-ray our lives and show us the decay. So, we say things like “I just needed to vent,” instead of calling it gossip. We tell ourselves, “We’re practically married, so it’s okay,” instead of labelling it sexual sin. We prefer to talk around the evil inside of us, without ever actually making eye contact with it. But, that’s what it is—evil—the place in our hearts that cares more about satisfying ourselves than it does about God.
This evasion lets us go on believing that we’re pretty good people. We compare our slip-ups to really bad sins and walk away feeling relieved. Or, after sinning, we try to balance the score with God. If we “fudge” on our taxes and feel guilty about it later, we might sign-up to volunteer at the homeless shelter.
This is strange behavior for people who believe that God’s love for us is completely disconnected from our successes and failures. He knows how deeply the evil in us goes—miles deeper than we think possible—and he see all the times when we’ve demanded that he serve us. And, he still keeps loving us. Heaven knows we don’t deserve it. Only someone perfect could deserve that kind of love—only someone like Jesus, the very person who turns around and shares that love with us.
So, why don’t we reach for God’s grace when dark spots show up in our lives? Why do pray for Aunt Martha’s broken hip or our upcoming job interview, but keep our failures silent and unnamed—those hours before the computer screen, the whole cake we ate after everyone else went to bed, the black hole inside that keeps us at work when our spouse needs us at home. Then, we wonder why God seems distant, and why the gospel, when we know it by heart, tastes stale.
Real grace, though, never loses its flavor, but the only way to get a bite of it is to face the evil inside ourselves and turn to God for help. When we hide our sins and tiptoe around them, we rob ourselves of the chance to experience, all over again, how the gospel is truly fantastic news.
Unconfessed sin deadens our relationship with God. Like a cavity, it needs to be named and dealt with—even if that means a root canal.