11 Jesus continued: “There was a man who had two sons. 12 The younger one said to his father, ‘Father, give me my share of the estate.’ So he divided his property between them.
13 “Not long after that, the younger son got together all he had, set off for a distant country and there squandered his wealth in wild living. 14 After he had spent everything, there was a severe famine in that whole country, and he began to be in need. 15 So he went and hired himself out to a citizen of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed pigs. 16 He longed to fill his stomach with the pods that the pigs were eating, but no one gave him anything.
17 “When he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have food to spare, and he I am starving to death! 18 I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. 19 I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired servants.’ 20 So he got up and went to his father.
“But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.
21 “The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’
22 “But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. 23 Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. 24For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate.
Confessing is a difficult thing to do. To ‘confess’ means to bring something that is true and highly personal to the light. It makes you feel exposed and vulnerable. It makes you feel very naked.
That’s why confessing your love for someone can be quite difficult. And nerve-racking. You are revealing something about yourself to the other person. You are opening up your heart in a real and genuine way. Before, you may have pretended like you didn’t care or have those feelings, but now – you are admitting it to be true.
It doesn’t only have to be romantic kind of love. Sometimes it’s hard to verbally express how much you care and appreciate the other person. So we do things like warm-and-fuzzies at retreats. How often do you tell your parents that you love them? The closer you are to that person, the harder it is.
Peter experienced that with Jesus. This was after he had denied Jesus three times. When he encountered Jesus after the resurrection, Jesus asked him repeatedly, “Peter, do you love me?” I’m sure Peter did love Jesus very much. But he just couldn’t bring himself to say it to Jesus directly.
“Yes, Lord,” he said, “you know that I love you.”John 21:15
If confessing your love for someone is difficult, imagine how difficult confessing our sins would be! Sin, as we learned recently, is what separates us from God and from each other. We experience the power of sin at work in our lives, and because of that, we also ‘sin’ against God and each other. In that sense, confessing our sins is acknowledging how we have hurt, isolated and separated ourselves from another person.
Even though confessing our sins is very much at the heart of living a life of faith, we don’t do it often. No one wants to think of themselves as bad or flawed. No one wants to feel weak and vulnerable. So we pretend like sin isn’t real or we aren’t sinful. We lie to ourselves, as John said—
If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.1 John 1:8
I thought about this more. Why do we shy away from confessing our sins? Why do we choose to lie to ourselves instead of telling the truth? Is it simply because of how it makes us feel about ourselves? Or is it because there is something more?
Then it came to me. Confessing our sins is especially hard because its outcome is dependent on the other person’s acceptance of us. The same can be said of confessing our love for someone. We fear their rejection. There is nothing more painful than being rejected. When it comes to our sins, we don’t know if we will be forgiven. We often feel like we don’t deserve God’s or the other person’s forgiveness.
That was what the Prodigal Son felt. He ran away from home with his inheritance. He pretty much told his father that he wanted him ‘dead’. It wasn’t long before he hit rock bottom and saw how miserable he was, living worse than his father’s servants. He desperately longed for the comforts of his home but wasn’t sure if his father would accept him back.
The Prodigal Son thought he would be disowned for good. We can see this in his planned confession—
I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired servants.Luke 15:18, 19
But what do we see when he returns home? We don’t see his father being angry and berating him for what he did. We don’t see the father telling him, “I told you so!” Rather, we see the father embracing the son with joy. He didn’t even hear what his son had to say.
But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.Luke 15:20
Remember, this is the “Parable” of the Prodigal (Lost) Son. Jesus told this story for a reason. Jesus wanted to shatter the image that people had of God. People had this image of God as a powerful, angry ruler who was only pleased when they did the right things. Through the parable, Jesus revealed a NEW image of God who waits, loves, and accepts us like a parent – no matter what. In fact, Jesus himself came to show us this love of God.
For God did not send his son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.John 3:17
Jesus didn’t come into the world to condemn sinners. Jesus came to save the sinners through his love. Once to a woman caught in adultery, he didn’t try to condemn her like the teachers of the law. He simply told her to go and leave her life of sin. Out of his love for us, Jesus bore all our sins on the cross.
This is why we can confess our sins to God without fear or worry. We know that God will not reject us. We know that God will accept us, as if we never left his side. God’s acceptance of us in Christ: that is FORGIVENESS. God’s choosing to not look at our sins anymore. To think that we need to do more is to undermine what Jesus did.
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.1 John 1:9
In our own journey, we run away from God like the Prodigal Son did from his father. We don’t think we need God. We think we will be completely fine on our own. Then when we come to realize our need for God, we wonder if we can go back to God. We wonder if God will accept us back again.
It is not about how long time has passed or how much you have sinned. To God, what matters is that you’ve come back to him. There is nothing that makes God’s heart beat more with joy. The father of the prodigal son threw a feast because of it!
For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.” So they began to celebrate.Luke 15:24
Don’t be afraid to confess your sins. It doesn’t mean making yourself feel guilty and ashamed. Guilt and shame are the ‘effects’ of sin. It doesn’t mean providing God with a list of ‘bad’ things you did. God already knows what you have done. It has to do with being honest and real about your need for God, and sharing your desire to be connected with God again. That is why we say, “I’m sorry.” Where sin abounds, grace abounds even more. You will experience God’s forgiveness in a real way. Peace and joy will fill your heart and drive out all the darkness.