Bonhoeffer on Humility and Confession

Tuesday is for Reflection

Bonhoeffer book cover (Metaxes)Why do we neglect confession of sin in the church?

There would be no Church if the God did not lead us to confess our need for a Savior. There is therefore no way to escape the admission by the members of churches to acknowledge that they are sinners.

We are not righteous. We need, desperately need, the righteousness of Christ. Yet in many churches, many (most?) people (congregation and pastors included) are diligent to put on their mask of …

  • “perfection” (what a joke?!)
  • “no need”
  • “I’m okay”
  • “I don’t struggle”

It’s as if we have forgotten that Jesus doesn’t save righteous people; He saves sinners. Bonhoeffer got it right. “The root of all sin is pride.” But the only way forward to what God calls us to be, to what the world needs us to be, is not forward but down. Down in humiliation. Forward movement starts by going down in confession to God but also to our brothers and sisters in Christ. Bonhoeffer again:

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 glory in such abasement.

Life Together, p. 114, (emphasis added).

This is precisely what our prideful hearts are prone to forget, but it is also what we must remember if we are to progress in the Christian life. We never graduate from the cross. We never graduate from need. We never walk a day in this life without the need to confess our sins to God, yes, but also to one another.

Let’s remember that and stop playing games. The mask of having “spiritually arrived” has got to come off if the people of God are going to experiences the riches and glory and thrill of what it means to be forgiven.

2 thoughts on “Bonhoeffer on Humility and Confession

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