Great Creator, we thank You
for the gift and mystery of our bodies.
We thank You for the gift of loving sexual intimacy.
Forgive us the misuse and abuse of that gift:
For taking it too early, with the wrong person,
for replacing love with lust,
for separating concern from self-fulfillment.
Make us pure in love, discerning in passion.
Make us choose commitment over possession.
Christ Jesus, who came to reconcile and restore all relationships,
heal and restore our fragile or broken marriages.
In your name, Lord, we pray, Amen.
A previous congregation I served had a pastor who claimed that corporate confession of sin was undesirable because confession of sin is a very private act in the life of a Christian…essentially, that’s what his prayer closet was for. This same pastor was very concerned with unity in his congregation, a noble and worthy concern.
Here’s one place where I think he was working against himself, however. Hearing your neighbor in the pew own these words as their own as you own them yourself and hearing both you and them receive an assurance that Christ has died for their sin creates unity around the Gospel. Such public confession should be owned by a congregation as being a real expression of their hearts. We have all misappropriated the gift of sex: to varying degrees of course, but before the Holy God, we all stand condemned and must acknowledge that fact.
A question in a Christian’s mind who does not confess sins in this fashion every week in their congregation may ask if this sort of confession is really age-appropriate. Surely small children shouldn’t hear this sort of thing on a Sunday morning in church, of all places.
Recently, on Facebook, I was drawn into a rather heated discussion in which another former pastor revealed that a teacher at his bible college had told them to cross out two verses in Romans 1, which talked about men indulging in shameful lusts with one another. They were told never to read these verses aloud from a pulpit. This pastor attempted to defend such a decision, as did another participant in the discussion, by saying that children are still in their parents’ care and should be sheltered from such things…something Scripture never does teach.
I argued quite to the contrary. There is much to be gained from a child, even a young one, hearing sex talked about in terms that God uses for it, on biblical grounds, from the mouths of their parents and other adults in a church service. If I had grown up with the knowledge that other men in my congregation had struggled with sexual temptations (whether they mirrored mine or not), things in my childhood may have been very different. As things were, anyone who was a Christian was not struggling anymore with sin…they had the victory, in Jesus’ Name!
Reading passages from Scripture and based on Scripture which talk about sex in the way in which God intended it to be used is to proclaim God’s law in a meaningful way to His people. And though, I’m not married, I can confess this in any congregation who would say these words in worship because I have replaced love with lust and tried to take the gift apart from a marriage covenant. I can ask for the restoration of marriage for the couple sitting next to me in the pew. I can receive the same forgiveness from the pastor, reading from a passage such as Isaiah 53:4-6:
4 Surely he has borne our griefs
and carried our sorrows;
yet we esteemed him stricken,
smitten by God, and afflicted.
5 But he was wounded for our transgressions;
he was crushed for our iniquities;
upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace,
and with his stripes we are healed.
6 All we like sheep have gone astray;
we have turned—every one—to his own way;
and the LORD has laid on him
the iniquity of us all.
I need to hear my neighbor confess his sin. He needs to hear me. And we both need to hear we’re forgiven.