The recent Clint Eastwood movie Gran Torino made me understand why some cradle Catholics become lapsed Catholics. I highly recommend the movie despite its language and violence because Gran Torino does contain a very central Christian theme in the movie. I won't give too much details as not to reveal spoilers but Eastwood portrays a lapsed Catholic widower named "Walt Kowalski." Kowalski is a stubborn Korean War veteran who wasn't fond of the idea of confession and especially to the young priest in the movie Father Jankovich.
I feel that the confession part of the Sacrament of Reconciliation is something that keeps many away from Catholicism or Eastern Orthodoxy. We all are embarrassed by our sins and we don't like talking about them. Some Christians feel that our sins are between God and ourselves and they don't feel that they need to confess their sins to anyone. However, scripture shows us that confession is good and that Jesus gave the apostles the ability to forgive sin:
- James 5:16: "Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective."
- John 20:21-23: Again Jesus said, "Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you." And with that he breathed on them and said, "Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive anyone his sins, they are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven."
- 2 Corinthians 2:10: "If you forgive anyone, I also forgive him. And what I have forgiven—if there was anything to forgive—I have forgiven in the sight of Christ for your sake."
Confession Requires Humility
I feel that Confession is something keeps many away from the Catholic church. Does anyone really like to confess their sins to someone else? I know that I don't but we have to remember the importance of humbling ourselves before God:
- Peter 5:6: "Humble yourselves, therefore, under God's mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time."
- James 4:6: "...'God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.'"
Jesus tells us of the importance of being humble like a child:
- Matthew 18:3-4: ..."I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven."
Why Confession is Good
It is often said that churches are the hospitals of the emotionally wounded. Many Christians carry around lot of "junk in the trunk" emotionally from their past. It is often easier for us to forgive someone else's sin against us than our own sin sometimes. However, for others it is not. If we hang on to sins committed against us, it is against God's will and the Devil loves a vengeful hard heart. Satan is an opportunist and he loves to enter these emotional wounds and inflict more damage. Remember the power and importance of forgiving:
- Matthew 6:14-15: "For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins."
- Matthew 18:21-22: Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, "Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times?" Jesus answered, "I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times."
Confession helps keep us on the right path spiritually and helps us unload the unnecessary emotional baggage we carry around. Whether you think that your sin is personal in nature, chances are that it still affects somebody or is a sin against building God's Kingdom on earth. One can confess their sins to a member of church, but confessing your sins to one central figure like a priest prevents your sin from being spread and distorted through gossip (another sin).
Whether or not that you believe a priest can forgive sins through the power of the Holy Spirit, confessing your sins to a priest does allow a well-educated spiritual man to give you advice if you continue to stumble.
Here is where my own life experience comes in. I was a casual friend of the late Darrell Porter (1982 World Series MVP). Before I came to know Darrell, he fought his own battles with drug and alcohol addiction when he played baseball in the 1970s. It was with the Kansas City Royals that he got his life together and became a born-again Christian. He wrote a book about his journey titled: "Snap Me Perfect: The Darrell Porter Story. "
Darrell was one of the most beautiful Christian men you would ever hope to meet. A devout family man and Christian that had a radiant personality. Darrell was always smiling and doing work for the Lord and telling his story. He was a very active member in the Fellowship of Christian Athletes. Friends said he led bible studies at his Baptist church. He always signed his autograph with a scripture. The autographed baseball I have, he signed it with Proverbs 3:5-6.
Well, one Monday afternoon in August 2002, sadly Darrell was found dead at a local park. Dead at age 50. Shockingly, an autopsy revealed that he had died from effects of cocaine use. Like so many, I just couldn't believe it and thought he had gotten his life together for good. I cried at the loss of such a good man and especially the thought of how devastating his loss had to be his wife and children.
Many times since his death, I often wondered if Darrell had ever confessed to anyone that his personal demons had resurfaced and that he was stumbling again. I also wonder if he had been Catholic and had to confess his sins, that he might still be alive today.
If this blog hits too close to home for you, I hope that do something about it. Don't be too proud or stubborn like Walt Kowalski to humble yourself and make a confession. Humility is one of our weapons against Satan. Remember too, humility is Christlike because Jesus gave us the most ultimate example of humility:
- Philippians 2:8: And being found in appearance as a man, he (Jesus) humbled himself and became obedient to death—even death on a cross!
© Michael J. Cox