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Saturday, July 16, 2011

Sermon Lessons: Confession

23-24"This is how I want you to conduct yourself in these matters. If you enter your place of worship and, about to make an offering, you suddenly remember a grudge a friend has against you, abandon your offering, leave immediately, go to this friend and make things right. Then and only then, come back and work things out with God.  
 25-26"Or say you're out on the street and an old enemy accosts you. Don't lose a minute. Make the first move; make things right with him. After all, if you leave the first move to him, knowing his track record, you're likely to end up in court, maybe even jail. If that happens, you won't get out without a stiff fine.
(Matthew 5:23-26)

Make this your common practice: Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you can live together whole and healed. The prayer of a person living right with God is something powerful to be reckoned with.
(James 5:16-17)

There is much to be said for being able to own up to your mistakes.  This is especially true within relationship.  There is nothing that binds two people together in a more committed manner than being able to confess your mistakes. Too many times, we hold out for the other to come to the place of admitting they were wrong before we will take even one step in that direction. When we choose to do this, we alienate ourselves from that which will bring health to our own lives.  It is in confession that we find healing.

The principle Jesus taught to his disciples involved making the "first" move.  The idea is that whenever it comes to mind that you have offended, or that the other feels that you have offended them, it is our responsibility to make the first move toward reconciliation.  Sometimes we think that we did nothing wrong and in actuality, when you examine the facts, we probably didn't!  But...the other person interpreted something we said or did as offensive to them.  It was a difficult thing for me to learn that I was responsible for the way YOU perceive me.

It is in my actions, words, or lack of these, that you form an impression of me.  You "perceive" me as kind, caring, and a joy to be around, OR you see me as meddlesome, overbearing, and a pain to be around.  The way I "come across" is my doing!  Sometimes, we don't do such a good job at putting our best effort into being the best in relationship.  Whenever this happens, riffs occur.  Jesus pictured being at the altar, ready to offer a sacrifice of worship, and realizing that a "riff" had occurred.  His instruction:  Leave the sacrifice (abandon what you are doing) and beat a path to the doorway of the one you have offended.

Now, for some of us, this "pathway" to the door of the one we have offended may be a little better worn!  I have been in relationships where I find that we are just like sandpaper to each other - constantly rubbing each other wrong.  Those "paths" are a little deeper worn than in some of my other relationships. In fact, I "know the way" without even looking - simply because I have made my way to them often enough that the way if familiar to me.  At first, it was very awkward and uncomfortable.  Now, it is a little easier, but no less important!

If we are always waiting for the other to make the first move, we may wait a long time.  In that passage of time, the mind and heart has a chance to "formulate" all kinds of imagined reasons for why the relationship will never work again.  It is that very passage of time that Jesus was focusing on avoiding.  He even says that worship is not more important than making things right when an offense exists.  It matters that much to him to see us living well with each other!

We are not "overlooking" an offense and just letting someone get by with something.  Instead, we are coming together to "settle the differences" - making a clean slate of things.  Sometimes, it means we both confess we were wrong - at other times, it may only be one of us that comes to the place of confession.  It does not have to be both of us realizing the error in our ways to bring reconciliation - it only takes one of us making the move!  In time, God will do the rest. 

You have heard it said, "Confession is good for the soul."  In the times of open dialogue within relationship, confession plays an important part in the destruction of "dividing walls" that serve to drive us far apart.  Who is God laying on your heart today to "beat a path to"?