The word that came to Jeremiah from the Lord: “Arise, and go down to the potter’s house, and there I will let you hear my words.” So I went down to the potter’s house, and there he was working at his wheel. And the vessel he was making of clay was spoiled in the potter’s hand, and he reworked it into another vessel, as it seemed good to the potter to do. Jeremiah 18:1-4
As I write this post, I am enjoying some vacation time with the younger of my two adult daughters. Just a couple of days into the vacation, I had already observed at least a half dozen things she used to like which are no longer important to her. She has changed. She is an adult now. But my mind is flooded with memories of her as a child. The truth is, we both have changed…and our relationship has changed as well. It has become an adult friendship. Oh, I will always be her Dad. But still, it is a very different relationship today than it was 20 years ago, and that is a good thing. Our relationship is in a whole new chapter, and it should look different.
Relationships are like that. Sometimes a particular season of a relationship runs its course and it is time for a whole new chapter. Parent/child relationships are like that. Moreover, sometimes a particular relationship can be so toxic, so unhealthy, it needs to be radically changed, almost like starting all over again. Some co-dependent relationships are like that. And still other relationships in our life can be so damaging to us that they just need to be scratched entirely. Like a potter with his clay, something entirely different is needed.
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