Blogging through Bonhoeffer 5

12 Jul

We all wear masks. In this new age of social media and constant connection, we carefully craft an image of ourselves. We post things that make us seem smart, influential, good looking and, most importantly, better than other people. We are constantly monitoring this social media persona to make sure nothing happens that would jeopardize the image we’ve worked so hard to create. But this reaches far beyond the digital world. Our lives are lived behind masks. We buy homes and cars we can’t afford to impress people we don’t like to achieve something that we’ve been told matters.

This culture seeps into the church. We do whatever we can to appear spiritual. We do everything that’s needed to fit into the church subculture. Conversation soars with lofty spiritual ideas. We are fluent in Christian jargon. We act the part. It is no surprise that people can go to the same church and engage in conversation regularly for years and never truly know each other. There is an elephant in the room and no one seems to notice. The elephant is sin. We are, by nature, sinners in desperate need of grace. When we try to interact as pious devotees we are masked. It is only when we are all well acquainted with our brokenness that we can truly be in community as the people of God.

Bonhoeffer speaks directly to this issue in chapter 5 of Life Together. He challenges us remove the masks that we are so comfortable hiding behind. “He who is alone with his sin is utterly alone.” Many Christians find themselves in utter desolation. We are to blame for this issue. The church has a reputation for being a place where sinners do not feel welcome. No one wants to experience the judgement of the pious. So, they hide their sin. Bonhoeffer reminds us of the words of James, “Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you might be healed” (James 5:16). Confession is the prescription to this diseased culture of pious judgement. Bonhoeffer says that when we confess our brokenness to brothers/sisters in Christ we find healing. When we peel back the masks and confess our sins we experience forgiveness.

“Sin wants to remain unknown.” Darkness is the healthiest place for sin to grow. Sin takes us into isolation and tells us that no one understands. Sin tells us we are alone in the struggle. And the farther it drags you into isolation the darker it becomes. Light is the antidote for sin. When we openly bring our sin into the light by confessing it to our brother/sister we take away its power. “The expressed, acknowledged sin has lost all its power.”

Bonhoeffer says that “the root of all sin is pride.” We like our image we’ve created too much to let it be known we are weak sinners. But the thing we run from is the thing we desperately need. “Confession in the presence of a brother is the profoundest kind of humiliation.” We are not fond of humiliation. But if we are to be like Christ we are to be intimately acquainted with abasement. The cross is the ultimate indignity. Jesus Christ, the God of the universe, hung naked on a cross, bearing the sin of all humanity for our sake. “The Cross of Jesus Christ destroys all pride. We cannot find the Cross of Jesus if we shrink from going to the place where it is to be found, namely, the public death of the sinner.” Jesus will meet you at the place you acknowledge your brokenness.

Bonhoeffer, later in the chapter, says that “Confession is conversion.” It is when we openly confess our sin to a brother that we find again the forgiveness of sins. It is in our confession that we experience salvation anew. Bonhoeffer also says that confession is discipleship. When we bring our sin into the light we are forced to face it and turn from it. Confession helps us to see the sheer ugliness of our sin. Often we give our sin to God in an abstract way and then move along. In the presence of a brother we must face the reality of our brokenness. Bonhoeffer says that we should confess “concrete” sins, not abstract ones. We should confess that we lied to our boss Tuesday, not that we lack self-control. When we speak of specific sins, we are forced to face our sinfulness. There is even a measure of pride in sharing abstract sin. You could revel in your humility to be able to be so transparent. It is hard to have any measure of pride in confessing a concrete, specific sin.

Jesus said that if you have a problem with your brother that you should leave the altar and go make amends with him. Bonhoeffer echoes this when he says that a perfect time for confession is before you partake of communion. It is clear that our actions affect the purity of our worship.

Bonhoeffer closes the chapter with some practical guidelines for confession. He says that there shouldn’t be anyone who bears the sole responsibility of hearing confessions. He says that it should be divided equally and naturally amongst the family of God. Confession is something to be shared. Anyone who does not regularly confess sin should not listen to the confession of others. We are all equal–sinners saved by grace.

We are given the opportunity to bear each other’s burdens in confession. We can stand firmly on the promises of God and offer forgiveness to our brother or sister for the sins they have committed. We can have full confidence that the Father forgives based on the promises of scripture.

Expose your sin to the light. Don’t allow yourself to burrow into the darkness. You can rest in the fact that you are a beloved child of God. He forgives without limit or restraint.

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