What does this mean? According to Dr. Constable, this isn't (a) a public confession of all your dirty laundry, or (b) confessing all of your sins to the clergy in a Roman Catholic sense; rather, it's confessing your sin to those who the sin has influenced. Have you sinned against your brother? Confess it to him. Your spouse? Do the same. Do what you must to make it right. A public sin should be confessed publicly; private sins should be addressed between those who it affects.
But we put on a front. We pretend often that we're perfect now. We put on our suits. We put on our dresses. Got our hair done up, a fresh shave, our shoes polished. We look good. We put on a good front. But it's a lie.
We all are struggling with different sins. We are all battling on different fronts and in different ways, but for a few hours a few nights a week, we practice behavior modification and put on our masks of Christian perfection and pretend that everything is perfect. We might be able to fight the behavioral sin for awhile, but we don't deal with the heart issue, largely because we're not honest with each other about what we're struggling with.
We've probably all heard the Sermon on the Mount at some point in our lives, but have you really ever examined it? It's all about breaking down the cycle of behavior modification and masks of piety; it's about dealing with the heart. How many of us have ever committed murder? But how many of us have ever lost our temper, or flown into a rage, or screamed at that guy in front of you who won't get out of the left lane even though he's going the speed limit and I'm on my way to work and if he doesn’t get out of the way I’m going to....
How many of us have committed adultery? (Don't raise your hands). But how many of us have looked twice at that new coworker, or the receptionist, or snuck off onto the internet late at night or watched a TV show that showed more than was appropriate or read a trashy novel or magazine article? (Again, don't raise your hands).
How many of us have held onto a grudge while speaking kindly to someone who offended us, or owes us money, or borrowed your lawn mower and didn't return it full of fuel? How many make promises we never intend to keep? How many of us worship in church while harboring resentment towards a brother or sister?
And that's just Matthew chapter 5.
Getting to Matthew 6, how many of us make a show of our worship so that people will see us and think we're doing great? How many of us talk about how much we fast, or how much we give in offering, so that people know?
It gets uncomfortable, but that's the difference between good behavior and a transformed heart. The message of the Gospel isn't that you can live right - it's that you get your heart right. Because if you get your heart right, you'll live right. But, as T.S. Eliot says, "The last temptation is the greatest treason: to do the right deed for the wrong reason." Intentions matter. Why you do something matters. It gets down to the heart, not the act.
I believe that it would be beneficial if we talked more openly about our struggles. If we were honest about the trials or the temptations. We don't get explicit, we don't have to embarrass ourselves. But what if we didn't always pretend we were perfect all the time? What if we had less judgment, more love, and more transparency within in the church, where we trusted each other enough to say "hey, say a prayer for me. I'm struggling right now. I'm going through a situation right now. I need you to lift me up. I need you to help me bear this burden. I need you to encourage me." How much stronger would the body be if we didn't attack each other, or mistrust each other, but instead loved each other with the grace that God has showed us? What if we dealt with the heart?