Opinion: A pastor’s confession on the need for confession

Confession is good for the soul. The courageous plunge into our own death and mortality brings the life we were made for. The way up is down. That has always been the shape and central message of Christianity. In fact, Christians of all people should be the first in line to admit the mess of our lives and the need for someone bigger than us to sort it all out. That’s why in this forthcoming column I, a pastor, invite you to sit next to the confessional as I step into it for some inside-out confession. Lean your ear in my direction because I have some things to get off my chest.

Forgive me, reader, for I have sinned. We, the church, have sinned against you by demanding from you a morality that we ourselves can’t live up to. Twice this week I’ve spoken to someone who walked away from church because it’s full of pietistic pretenders. Their instincts aren’t wrong. Somehow we’ve contorted the Bible into a rulebook and have made ourselves its heroes and everyone else its villains. It’s not a rulebook, and on my best days I don’t see a hero looking back at me in the mirror.

We’ve messed this part up. We want you to think that we’re great. We want you to believe that being a Christian means you don’t have any issues in your life. We want you to grace our pews and look in awe at all the perfect people wearing their perfect clothes, living their perfect lives. It’s all a lie. All of us are messed up, especially the person holding the microphone up front (that’s me). To say otherwise is dishonest, pietistic pretending to make us feel good about ourselves often at your expense.

That’s wickedness and I’m sorry. Forgive us for (mis)leading with our goodness and focusing on other people’s badness. There are logs in our eyes that are blurring our vision and misrepresenting our Savior and his movement of in-process people.

Christianity has never been about keeping a list of rules. It has never been about making a judgmental finger-wagging ogre in the sky happy with us because of our good morality. That’s oppressive and impossible. Thankfully the way up really is down. The movement started 2,000 years ago and has always been about admitting that we can’t keep the rules, and that we desperately need Jesus to keep them on our behalf. So I’m sorry. We’re a messy bunch. Don’t let us convince you otherwise.

I’m only scratching the surface of my confession. How has the church hurt you? Leave a comment below and let’s talk about it in the coming weeks.

Andrew Lupton serves as the Senior Pastor of the United Church of Bogotá an English-speaking international church.

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