Bonhoeffer on the Benefits of Confession to One Another

March 22, 2011

Tuesday Re-mix –

As Christians, we have been given only one mechanism to deal with sin in our lives: confession.  There simply is no other means of prevailing over sin.  Confession is our only hope.

Much of what I understand scripture to teach us about confession comes from my old friend, Dietrich Bonhoeffer.  So today I will not bore you with my words; rather, I will challenge you with his.  Take a minute to let his words (from Life Together) about confession of our sins to one another settle in your heart.  Here was a man who understood some things about the transforming power of community.

Breaking Through to Community

In confession the break-through to community takes place.  Sin demands to have a man by himself.  It withdraws him from the community.  The more isolated a person is, the more destructive will be the power of sin over him, and the more deeply he becomes in it, the more disastrous is his isolation.  Sin wants to remain unknown.  It shuns the light.  In the darkness of the unexpressed it poisons the whole being of a person.  This can happen even in the midst of a pious community…

The expressed, acknowledged sin has lost all its power…It can no longer tear the fellowship asunder.  Now the fellowship bears the sin of the brother.  He is no longer alone with his evil for he has cast off his sin in confession and handed it over to God…Now he stands in the fellowship of sinners who live by the grace of God in the cross of Jesus Christ.

Breaking Through to the Cross

In confession occurs the break-through to the cross…Confession in the presence of a brother is the profoundest kind of humiliation.  It hurts, it cuts a man down, it is a dreadful blow to pride.  To stand there before a brother as a sinner is an ignominy that is almost unbearable.  In the confession of concrete sins the old man dies a painful, shameful death before the eyes of a brother.  Because this humiliation is so hard we continually scheme to evade confessing to a brother.  Our eyes are so blinded that they no longer see the promise and the glory in such abasement.

The Cross of Jesus Christ destroys all pride.  We cannot find the Cross of Jesus if we shrink from goingto the place where it is to be found, namely, the public death of the sinner.  And we refuse to bear the Cross when we are ashamed to take upon ourselves the shameful death of the sinner in confession.  In confession we break through to the true fellowship of the Cross of Jesus Christ, in confession we affirm and accept our Cross.

Breaking Through to Certainty

In confession a man breaks through to certainty.  Why is it that it is often easier for us to confess our sins to God than to a brother? God is holy and sinless, He is a just judge of evil and the enemy of all disobedience.  But a brother is sinful as we are.  He knows from his own experience the dark night of secret sin.  Why should we not find it easier to go to a brother than to the holy God?  …We must ask ourselves whether we have not often been deceiving ourselves with our confession to God, whether we have not rather been confessing our sins to ourselves and also granting ourselves absolution.

Who can give us the certainty that, in the confession and forgiveness of our sins, we are not dealing with ourselves, but with the living God?  God gives us this certainty through our brother.  Our brother breaks the circle of self-deception.  A man who confesses his sin in the presence of a brother knows that he is no longer alone with himself; he experiences the presence of God in the reality of the other person.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Life Together

© Blake Coffee
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2 thoughts on “Bonhoeffer on the Benefits of Confession to One Another

  1. Larry Chittum

    Sir,

    Thankyou for this article. Bonhoeffer has much

    to say to us. May God continue to use this great

    book in the lives of His people.

    Reply
  2. Dave Parkinson

    A person who confesses his sins to another human being in the presence of God and then does as the bible asks which God says do not come to my alter until you have put your affairs right with your brother! Now we have confessed our sins we are then to make amends for the harm done )

    Reply

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