Thinking Out Loud

September 17, 2010

Suppose I Were To Tell You…

I hesitated to write this.   Just three short weeks ago, I wrote about confession in general, and the website PostSecret in particular.    While it would have been more simple to devote that space to a discussion about why it is that we have this need to vent or get something off our chests, I wrote instead about the fact that this type of confession doesn’t really go anywhere beyond confession itself.   It lacks what we experience in a liturgical church service following the confession of sin:  The assurance of pardon.

Why am I returning to this subject?

Because this week blogger Mandy Thompson (who just this week, in the link list, we referred to as not that Mandy Thompson) offered her readers an opportunity to comment (in this case, confess)  anonymously beginning with the phrase, “What if I Told You…”

While this sort of thing may not be your preferred brand of reading — perhaps you consider it prurient or voyeuristic — I think that every once in awhile something of this nature bears reading; in this case for two very particular reasons.

First of all, these were Christian readers responding to the opportunity, not readers from among the general population.   In fact, a very noticeable percentage of them were pastors’ wives or pastors; something very reminiscent of Anne Jackson’s books, and her current Permission to Speak Freely book tie-in website.   Apparently, clergy families are in desperate need for an Ann Landers or Dear Abby page on which to bare their deepest hurts.

As we are all from time to time.

Secondly however, and this is why I’m linking to this today; at what I’m sure was  great personal emotional exhaustion, Mandy took the time to answer each and every response.   That’s with the number of comments closing in on 200.

What if I told you I’m impressed?

This is the blogosphere at its best.   When someone tells you that blogs are a waste of time, let them see what’s happening at, and then don’t miss some of her post-mail-avalanche comments that follow more recently.

If you’re a blogger, do you see what you do as a ministry?  Are there times someone left a comment that resulted in you taking on the role of counselor?  If you’re a reader, have you ever had a blog writer that you really connected with and received help from?    For either category, have you ever continued the dialog off-the-blog?


  1. yes, to all of the above, frankly, i wasn’t expecting it when i got into this deal, but there is actual ministry that transpires.

    Comment by randy morgan — September 17, 2010 @ 11:50 pm

  2. “It lacks what we experience in a liturgical church service following the confession of sin: The assurance of pardon.”

    Huh? I read that 3 times – 4th v e r y slowly, and still don’t understand what you are saying. For the first time, it sent me to your “about” page and I still don’t know.

    Mandy is a good woman for answering all posts.

    Comment by Laura — September 18, 2010 @ 12:37 am

    • Okay…here goes.

      Even if a person is not a Christian, they are familiar with the expression, “Confession is good for the soul.” It feels good to tell someone…

      But in some — not all — churches, the part of the service called “Confession of sin” is followed by the “Assurance of Pardon;” that is, a reminder to the congregation that “if we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sin and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

      Right then. Right there.

      Not after we’ve gone home and said ten “Hail Marys” and three “Our Fathers.” As we come before God and tell Him we’re sorry for our wrongdoing, his forgiveness: “If my people, who are called by My name will humble themselves, seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin…”

      The point of the August 27th post was that you don’t get that on a website like PostSecret. It’s a public confession that is totally lacking in what Andy Stanley would call “discerning of next steps.”

      That’s where Mandy takes it to the next level. (Not that Anne Jackson doesn’t; she has a book people can read that is a huge giant-size response.) Mandy offers empathy and encouragement. (Just as Jesus was “tempted in all points as we are…yet without sin”).

      James 3 says, “We all stumble in many ways. If anyone is never at fault in what he says, he is a perfect man, able to keep his whole body in check.”

      We’re going to sin. But if we come to God in humility and confess our sin — and, at this stage, some would want me to add, ‘and we are truly sorry’ — we have the assurance of God’s forgiveness.

      However, you don’t have to attend a liturgical church to know this principle to be true. It’s just that in those churches, the order of service itself is a reminder of the principle in operation.

      Comment by paulthinkingoutloud — September 18, 2010 @ 11:07 am

  3. Thanks for answering that, Paul. Brings up my age old question I (think) I have privately settled in my mind this month – Did Jesus die for all our sins, or just the ones we confess? St. Paul says “all”.

    It’s hard, because I believe the entire Bible is inspired by God, profitable for doctrine, reproof, correction and for instruction in righteousness. Paul says we will be judged by his gospel, so I gotta go with Paul to understand the full work of the Cross. I don’t think 1 John “if we confess our sins” is a law written to the gentiles. JMO

    As for the confessions on PostSecret, I’m sure they are like the prayers of non-believers; they don’t go any higher than the ceiling.

    Comment by Laura — September 20, 2010 @ 4:37 pm

    • That’s a really good point, Laura. We tend to think of “limited” or “unlimited” atonement in terms of whether or not people ultimately accept God’s offer of forgiveness in dying for our sins.

      I’ve never actually thought about it in terms of “confessed” and “unconfessed” sins in the life of the believer.

      I think that part of self-searching (as in Psalm 139 and Psalm 51) is that God reveals the unconfessed sin to us; part of the renewal process is that we don’t have a record of unconfessed sin if we’re coming to the cross daily and asking God to renew us and asking his Holy Spirit to fill every area of our lives.

      You could have a GREAT Bible study on this subject!

      A good prayer-ender might be, “God, if there’s anything else I’ve said or done today; or not said or not done today; I ask you to reveal it to me; nonetheless, I ask you to cleanse me from both my specific sins and my propensity to sin; and continue to renew me and work out your perfect will and way in my life.”

      Or something like that.

      Comment by paulthinkingoutloud — September 20, 2010 @ 5:32 pm

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