I got mad at Kay, my wife, not too long ago because she killed a little gecko that wandered into our bathroom. I just don’t like to kill things. I like to fish but I throw them all back. I’d rather shoo a bug outside than smash it. It always seems so unnecessary to kill.
So the images in Leviticus haunt me. I can’t imagine standing in the court of the tabernacle with the priest, looking into the big, brown, helpless eyes of a lamb, and explaining to the priest why I need to kill it. Not just that I’m going to kill it but that I need to kill it. It is my fault. Something I did or didn’t do transgressed the Law and meant that I needed to go grab this innocent creature and drag it down here and butcher it. I don’t know what would be worse, having to bring the poor lamb to the altar or having to explain why to the priest.
That’s not true. I do know what’s worse. Having to explain it is always worse. The bottom line is I would rather pay the penalty than admit to the crime. Most of the time confessing seems even more unnecessary than killing, so I don’t.
The vast majority of the time I whisper in my prayers about the sins I can recall, but I don’t tell anybody else. But when I consider the interaction between the lamb killer and the priest it confronts me with what I know is true – I would be much more aware of my sinfulness, much more convicted about its devastating effects on my home, my job, my friends, my kids, my faith, and I think much more inclined to transformation – if I submitted to a regular, structured time of publically confessing my sin to another human being.
I have all the excuses arrayed. Don’t know who I can trust; don’t know anyone who really wants to hear it; don’t need another appointment on my calendar; don’t really want to be some anal retentive church guy who goes around all puckered up because he’s afraid he’ll do something he’ll have to own up to later.
In his book “Your God is Too Safe” Mark Buchanan explains the grace God infused in the interaction between the lamb killer and the priest, “…in the simplest possible terms: Love can’t cover over the sins we cover up.” I would expand on his observation to include the sins we don’t notice and the sins we rationalize as trivial and the sins we openly enjoy. That is why confession always preceded sacrifice. Love can’t cover over the sins we cover up.
Killing the lamb makes possible atonement for the sin. Confession makes possible the killing of the sin.
I confess, I need to confess.