Public confession and reconciliaton

In a secular, connected world, how does confession and absolution fit with the media-guided public apology?

Baptist pastor Alan Rudnick looks at Lance Armstrong and thinks about confession.

With critics saying that this interview was not enough, how does one really confess wrong doing? With news media asking if Armstrong is the “biggest liar”, how does one go about sharing the truth?

In a world where CEOs who wrongly milked millions out of companies only to retire comfortable while workers lose their 401k’s, the public’s strong reaction against people like Armstrong is reasonable. Celebrities, politicians, and the wealthy seem to get a break that most of us don’t receive.

When most people confess, it is hard and ugly. They have to face the people who they have wronged. When Lance Armstrong wants to confess, he goes on Oprah. He doesn’t face his fans, teammates, or those who he lied to. Instead, he gets a mega celebrity who wants to ride on the notoriety.

Is that a real confession?

I serve in a Christian tradition where there isn’t a standard of private confession to a priest. However, wrong doers must face the people that they have wronged and there must be an effort for reconciliation by both parties (James 5:16). If we want to be forgiven of any wrong we have done, then we must forgive others (John 20:23). Forgiveness is a two way street.

Confession of wrong doing isn’t only about coming clean. It is about restoration. It looks something like this:

Wrong doing -> Confessing of wrong doing -> Forgiveness -> Restoration of relationship -> Healing

Let’s be real about this. This process doesn’t happen in an instant. It may take days, weeks, months, and maybe years. God forgives easily but humans take longer.

For most of us, we can’t go on television and confess. We can’t have a one sided conversation of confession. We face the ugly and messy task of owning up to our mistakes and facing those who we have wrong. That’s not easy but it is the right thing to do.

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