“Many Christians are unthinkably horrified when a real sinner is suddenly discovered among the righteous. So we remain alone with our sin, living in lies and hypocrisy . . . . He who is alone in his sins is utterly alone.”- Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Life Together
John Ortberg opens Chapter 5 (“Life Beyond Regret: The Practice of Confession”) of The Life You’ve Always Wanted with the story of the mauve sofa- the first piece of furniture John and his wife bought, despite being warned by the salesman against picking that color with 3 small children in the house. The sofa was like the forbidden tree in the Garden of Eden- “do not sit on the mauve sofa or you shall surely . . . .” Inevitably, The Fall came in the form of a red jelly stain on the sofa. The children were lined up in front of the sofa by mom, but no admission of guilt was forthcoming. The author was all too well aware that the children could not possibly admit guilt. They hadn’t left the stain, he had!
The truth is, Pastor Ortberg notes, that all of us have stained the sofa. We struggle, not with understanding the message of forgiveness, but with living with the reality of forgiveness. Through confession we are healed and changed. Light begins to shine on our pathway toward ministry revisioning and restoration. We experience the power of confession not as a single act, but as a process.