There are sins we are okay with God knowing about, and sins we aren’t.
I stood before a retreat I led and explained how we were going to to write down our ‘shame lists.’
We had been reading through Mark 5, where the writer describes a woman who came to Jesus after 12 years of bleeding, which would have made her ceremonially unclean. Thus, she would have been shunned from family and friends.
For 12 years.
It also recounts the story of the demon possessed man in the graveyard who was cutting himself with stones (unclean) and kept breaking out of the chains the townspeople kept putting on him, outside of the town by the pigs (unclean).
If we think about this from their perspective, they’ve just had every part of shame in their life casually listed off, broadcast to be read in the Bible for all time. The writer needed to establish just how low and ashamed these people are, so it can be contrasted with how little Jesus cares about their ‘shame lists.’
He touches the lepers and the unclean constantly.
He talks to people He’s not supposed to.
He isn’t scared of their deepest shames or sins.
Yet if we think about how we discuss our own sin and shame in church, it’s not quite so honest…is it?
I’ve termed these our ‘Sunday School Sins.’
It’s the sins that are okay to name in church; the ones we can use in sermon examples that aren’t too graphic or specific. For example, no one in my youth group ever struggled with porn and masturbation…just “lust.”
No one cut themselves or hated themselves so much they wanted to die… they were just “going through a tough season.”
It was just their Sunday School Sins.
I believe, however, that our healing can only be as deep as our confession. If we are only honest with our friends and family to a depth of two inches, we shouldn’t be surprised when our healing also only goes down about two inches.
Jesus wants to plumb the depths of our hearts to bring full healing rather than remain on the surface…the place a lot of churches stop.
So on the retreat, when I had everyone write down their ‘shame lists,’ we came back together 30 minutes later and I asked if anyone wanted to share their list. To my surprise, many of them did. Almost all of us shared, through many tears, the items on our shame lists. Each person’s confession was met with love and embraces, and we felt baptized by the end of the night.
James 5:16 says to confess our sins to one another so that we may be healed. In other words, it’s not so that we may be forgiven, or so God will like us more after our penance.
It’s so that WE may be healed.
It’s for our own benefit.
And why do it to one another, not just to God? Well, because we don’t always hear God’s words of love and grace spoken back to us in response. We are the body of Christ for one another, meant to be here for one another, to receive confessions, give love, and spur one another on.
So, sure, you can tell your (trusted) buddies that you just struggle with ‘lust,’ or ‘anger,’ but the deeper you dive into the depths of your own heart, and the more honest you are, the deeper the healing you’ll find.
If Jesus only came to forgive our Sunday School Sins, I don’t really want anything to do with him. Kind of a useless savior if that’s all he can handle.
But if He came to heal us down to the very floors of our souls, then we do indeed need to begin acting like it.