I was sitting across the desk from a friend, who had just failed his drug test. His urine test had come up positive for opiates, but he denied his guilt. He insisted the test was wrong. So we tried again and got the same result. He accused our batch of tests to be in error, so we tested a number of other residents from the same box. They all passed. He still maintained his innocence. So we tested him two more times and came to the same result. He had used opiates which was a clear violation of our residential recovery program’s policy. What did he have to say for himself? He was innocent, but we and our tests were guilty?
I had known this friend very well for over a year. I urged him in the face of the preponderance of evidence, be honest! He swore his innocence. As I urged and begged and pleaded for his character and benefit to confess, he refused. As I searched my heart and his to discover why he couldn’t get honest, I realized something about confession and honesty. We will only admit our sins to those we believe will not harm us with the information. The reality is that when we lie, we not only condemn ourselves as liars, but those we lie to as harmers. That in a tragic way, we are telling those we are lying to that I don’t trust you. That I am not confident in or comfortable with your character. So that in a very real way, our inability to be honest with another is our condemnation of their character.
As I pondered that thought, I reflected on scripture. I was in the process of teaching Joel, so I considered Joel 2:12,13 in which God is urging his people to repent with the famous words, “Rend your heart and not your garment.” But God’s urging toward confession and repentance was based upon his character. He states, “Return to the LORD, your God, for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love; and he relents over disaster.” The basis God uses to call his people home is his character of grace and love. The promise of his reception is what draws out our open admissions.
So maybe the real reason we don’t confess our sins and repent often is because of our belief in the character of the one we must confess to. Therefore could it be that our maintaining a lie is truly our condemnation of another’s character. We reveal our belief that their character is untrustworthy.
In I John 1:9, God urges us to confess our sins to him because of his character, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”