St. John Chrysostom declares “Be ashamed when you sin, not when you repent.” I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had people confide in me that they don’t go to confession because they are ashamed. What a brilliant trick of the evil one! The very medicine that would cure your heart sickness is the one thing you’re most afraid to do. And, of course, folks tell me they don’t want me to think less of them after their confession. What? I hear so many confessions that I truthfully can’t remember who told me what after they are finish. Plus, I go to confession too, so who am I to think less of you!
It is a sad state when we prefer to remain spiritually ill rather than run the risk that our ego may be tarnished. But remember what Jesus reveals in Luke 15:10: “Likewise, I say to you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”
Look at our Lesson today in Hebrews 4:14-16; 5:1-6:
BRETHREN, since we have a high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we have not a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. For every high priest chosen from among men is appointed to act on behalf of men in relation to God, to offer gifts and sacrifices for sins. He can deal gently with the ignorant and wayward, since he himself is beset with weakness. Because of this he is bound to offer sacrifice for his own sins as well as for those of the people. And one does not take the honor upon himself, but he is called by God, just as Aaron was. So also Christ did not exalt himself to be made a high priest, but was appointed by him who said to him, “Thou art my Son, today I have begotten thee”; as he says also in another place, “Thou art a priest forever, after the order of Melchizedek.”
We’ve seen this passage before, but look at what St. Paul teaches about the reason we have no reason to be afraid of approaching the “throne of grace.”
First he tells us that we have a high priest that knows we are weak and sympathizes with us. Our Lord Jesus doesn’t feel sorry for us, He knows how we feel! That’s one of the powerful reasons we Orthodox insist on the theology of the Incarnation. God takes on flesh so that He can assure us He knows what it’s like! He does this for us so that He can be with us! He knows our weaknesses and yet He loves us still. We can have confidence to turn to Him in our weakness because He gets it and want to heal it!
Next, this high priest deals gently with us. Not because He is weak, but because He is strong. And His strength should instill confidence in us, not fear because He uses His strength for mercy, not vengeance. As someone once said “You may have many enemies in this life, but God is NOT one of them!”
Finally, this high priest is sinless so that He can always forgive our sins! We can have confidence to do the hard work of repentance because he not only knows we are weak; He not only deals gently with us; but He is free from sin so that His “medicine” of repentance cures us from sin!
So, don’t be ashamed when you repent. Don’t allow shame to keep you from confession. Don’t let your ego stop you from being healed! Run to the spiritual hospital of the Church and repent and see if your High Priest throws open the storehouse of mercy to forgive and flood your heart with freedom!
Today, don’t let your fear keep you from confession. You can have “confidence” to approach the “throne of grace” knowing your High Priest longs to forgive, to heal, and to assure you of His eternal forgiveness and everlasting love! Isn’t it wonderful to be Orthodox on Purpose?
Thanks, Fr. Barnabas – I needed to read this and hear it in my heart.