A Reflection for October 2016 by Richard Parrish


All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts
are like filthy rags…”
— Isaiah 64:6 (NIV) [1]


“For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out.”— Romans 7:18 (ESV) [2]



Ok… I admit it is not comfortable for us to talk about sin: but why?


Why is it that some church leaders tend to find a more convenient terminology to speak to the actual condition of humanity? Why are we prone to acknowledge that we make mistakes, are not perfect, and have flaws rather than saying we have sinned? Is it possible that calling our sins imperfections, is more acceptable? After all,no one is perfect, are they?


Why have some congregations omitted a corporate prayer of confession from their liturgy? Is confession of our sins no longer important to God and our community of faith?


It appears that it is more socially acceptable for me to concede that I’m impatient, irritable, and tend to indulge in unhealthy behavior than saying: I’ve sinned. Somehow, I feel more at home with the human race if I’m able to compare my performance with others: “Hey, I know I have faults… but I’m not as bad as that person!”


The truth is: Despite my self-determination, my personal resolve too often fails me in my moments of impatience, irritation, and indulgences. When I need determination the most, I frequently discover a short supply!  And, to acknowledge I’m sinful, not only exposes my inadequacy; it demands humility.


To confess my sins allows no room for pride. To ignore, sidestep, or attempt to soften the reality of my sinfulness, delays humility; a virtue that pleases God – and a quality sorely needed in our society.


According to the prophet Isaiah, each of us qualifies as being sinful:


All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts
are like filthy rags…”


The best we have (our righteous acts) is deficient. However, the Good News is: God – through the gift of His Son, Jesus Christ – made way for our unrighteousness to be declared righteous! It is not our doing or ability; it is Christ’s redemptive act that reconciles us to God!


Popular or not, the confession of our sins is healthy. James writes:


“… Confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed.” [3]


But is it always safe to confess our sins to people?  Ask the individual whose confession was betrayed, or those who have been looked down upon by self-righteous people.


In his book, Life Together, author and theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer writes: “The pious fellowship permits no one to be a sinner.”  Pharisaical attitudes are still alive and active.


My childhood church experience conditioned me to be socially acceptable while avoiding honesty. Concealing the truth about my sins helped me avoid the virtuous scorn of the saints. It wasn’t that I purposefully wanted to hide the raw – and often embarrassing – failures of my life; I just understood that my spiritual environment was not always “safe.” Pharisaical attitudes always have difficulty in accepting sinfulness.


My attempts to confess my sins (at times) resulted in comments that suggested my sinful actions were somehow diluting the effectiveness of Christ’s sacrifice on the cross, leaving me with an internal haunting message that something must be inherently wrong with me. After all, “Everyone else has been able to conquer sin, why can’t I?”


Paul’s words remain helpful for me to keep my sinful condition in perspective. My sins do not diminish the effectiveness of Christ’s redemptive act. Like Paul, I’m reconciled to God through Christ, but my flesh is still very much alive. My desire to do right is sincere. My ability, not so much!


While it may be comfortable to believe that we can reach a place (in this world) where we are entirely free from sin, denial of sin is still prideful. Disowning our condition only distances us from God and the gift of reconciliation.


A pastor-friend of mine had a sign in front of his church with large letters that read: “No perfect people allowed.”  I thought: How refreshing! While some may think that sounds like permission to continue in our sins, I find it inviting, accepting, and hopeful!  The church is not called to be a stalwart of respectability. It is a forgiving – and confessing – community!


The Psalmist admonishes himself (and us) to bless the Lord and not to forget God’s benefits. He reminds us that God graciously forgives, heals, redeems, and crowns our lives with His steadfast love and mercy (Ps. 103:1-4). That is a compelling invitation for all who sin.


Let us confess our sins:


Most merciful God, we confess that we have sinned against you in thought, word, and deed, by what we have done, and by what we have left undone. We have not loved you with our whole heart; we have not loved our neighbors as ourselves. We are truly sorry, and we humbly repent, for the sake of your Son Jesus Christ, have mercy on us and forgive us; that we may delight in your will, and walk in your ways, to the glory of your Name. Amen.

[1] The New International Version (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2011), Is 64:6. [2] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2001), Ro 7:18. [3] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2001), Jas 5:16.



●     Am I more likely to acknowledge my faults than my sins? Why?

●     When I sin, does my view of God encourage me to run from Him, or toward Him?

●     What are the defects in my life that are sinful? Am I willing to confess them to God,
       ask His forgiveness, and receive His love?

●     When’s the last time I’ve expressed my appreciation to God for the mercy and grace
       He generously extends to me?