Repentance vs. Confession

I am getting tired of hearing that someone is “truly sorry” for what they have done. It’s great that they are admitting they did wrong (AFTER they got caught in a lie). But I wonder why someone can justify that it is OK to lie, cheat or steal.

What’s going on? And why??

Recent news events like a congressman admitting to sending a lewd tweet, a governor having a “love child”, a city councilman being accused of stealing tax dollars for a car and trips to Vegas, are just the tip of the iceberg. It crosses political parties, ages, races and states. It’s an avalanche of public misdeeds.

Granted, media types seem to be foaming at the mouth as they do another expose’. At the dentist’s office this morning the local 24/7 news channel was going on. And on. AND ON!!! over the resignation of Rep. Weiner. You know, once or twice an hour should be sufficient. Could we talk about the stock market? Or perhaps debate climate change? How about a serious discussion about our government’s inability to get past deadlock on the national debt? Those issues are more painful. More serious. So we jump to the sensational instead.

It’s not just the political realm, either. My beloved Buckeyes lost a great coach because he admitted (and took full responsibility) for not reporting his players getting free tatts and other miscellaneous privileges. Coach Tressel was up front about it — once he realized it was not going to be dismissed as a rumor, he took his lumps with his players. He lost his job (though he was allowed to ‘resign’ and was not given a severance package.)

Is it that the famous persons in our culture are now more visible to the average member of public? That anyone, anywhere can do deep-level web searches and come up with dirt on a public figure? Is it the proliferation of internet broadcasts, podcasts and tweets of the news? Is it the ability to upload a video from a cell phone to YouTube in seconds, making “newsmaker videos” almost an anachronism?

I think that increased visibility is a factor in the escalation of these recent events, certainly. But I wonder if part of the issue is a weakening of the spiritual practice of confession and repentance. If we don’t have a clear understanding that there are consequences for our actions, if we don’t recognize that beyond the legal ramifications there are interpersonal ones too, there is little reason to believe that anyone will know. And beyond that human level, if we do not see that our actions represent a sinful act towards God, we do not seek to change.

It is also not a matter of conscience. The oft-repeated phrase I’ve heard from Pinocchio – “Always let your conscience be your guide” – is misguided. We can justify ourselves out of a black hole if we are truly determined to have things the way we want them. RC Sproul wrote:

“It was Jiminy Cricket who said, ‘Always let your conscience be your guide.’ This is good advice if our conscience is informed and ruled by the Word of God. However, if our conscience is ignorant of Scripture or has been seared or hardened by repeated sin, then Jiminy Cricket theology is disastrous.” — in Essential Truths of the Christian Faith

But Sproul also is a bit heavy-handed here. Because even those people who KNOW that lying about lewd Tweets, or sleeping with the housekeeper, or ignoring freebies from tattoo parlors (whatever!) have a conscience. Many of them would profess to be people who believe the Bible is appropriate to guiding their daily decision-making. It’s just that in the thrill of the moment… they take the easy way out. Their hearts are not “seared or hardened” — they goofed up. And when they were caught — they admitted it.

Confession is, at its root, an opportunity for reconciliation. (In fact, it is properly called the ‘Rite of Reconciliation’ in the Catholic church.) It is a chance for us to agree with God that we are sin-wrecked people and need constant opportunities for do-overs. It doesn’t necessarily follow that saying a specific prayer or committing to do an act of penitence will ‘fix’ things. But it helps keep the heart humble, pliable, and willing to change.

People will vilify public liars. Personally, I struggle to feel “sorry” for those who have been caught in the consequences of their actions… particularly those who insisted they were innocent at the first… and then when faced with irrefutable evidence that they lied, had to make a public retraction. (ouch) But I also know that were I caught in the same situation (and I pray that I never am) I would be willing to be up front about my failings, and face the music. (Yes. That was plural failingS. I know myself far too well.)

One final thought (yeah. Sorry. This post got a little long…)

I have a couple of resources that I use to help keep me honest with God. The first is a link to several Scriptures and prayers of confession. Take the time to add one of these to your quiet times with God. The second is a time of re-booting (as I like to call it) through using the podcast Pray-As-You-Go. Just 15 minutes and I have a renewed perspective on God and Gods’ ways.

And occasionally, I stay on the right track.

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