One of the criticisms of the Roman Catholic Church from many Protestants is the necessity of the priestly figure. Protestants tend to feel that, due to passages like Matthew 27:51-53, the rift between man and God has been bridged by Jesus. Therefore, we no longer need an intercessor, but can approach God ourselves. Protestants are, I feel, correct in this statement, but then the logical thought process breaks down. We assume that the only reason for confession is for God to forgive us, and fail to even consider whether there might be other purposes for the practice.
I heard a story once of a girl who regularly confessed her sins to a friend of hers. She did not do so because she wanted the friend to pray and ask God to forgive her sins, but rather because she needed to see that a person, a close friend in this case, could forgive her. And if this friend could forgive her, God, who is so much greater, surely would forgive her as well.
Just like a funeral is not for the sake of the one who died, but to give those who loved that person a chance to mourn and gain closure–it is for the attendees rather than the deceased–so too is confession to our benefit. God commands us to confess our sins, but we sometimes get too wrapped up in the surface-level meaning of the command. Yes, we should confess to God our sins and ask for His forgiveness, but there’s more to it than just gaining forgiveness.
Confessing forces us to be vulnerable, to admit a mistake rather than glossing it over, to confront ourselves and, in some cases, to discover that our failings aren’t as bad as we thought they were. When we feel most unforgivable is when we so desperately need a time of confession, for it frees us from that fear. To confess reminds us that Jesus hears and forgives, and that we are free indeed.
Tomorrow, I will expand a bit on why we should ask forgiveness from a God who has already forgiven us.