One of my favorite parts of the book, Blue Like Jazz, is the chapter entitled “Confession.” In it, the author and his friends attending Reed College set up a confessional booth during Reed’s Mardi Gras style “free for all.” But the twist they took was to apologize for the sins of Christianity’s past. I realize not everyone will accept or understand the wonderful impact of this approach, but hear me out.

We have all done things we’re not happy with (and neither is God); lied, cheated, stole, lusted, <insert the sin of your choice> while we were Christians. And those non-Christians around us who witnessed that sin may have added one more mark against Christians as a result. Did that <sin of your choice> keep someone from accepting Christ into their life? Do you think about that when your actions in the secular world are watched by non-Christians? I think this is why God calls us to be holy, but also why it’s important for us to be transparent. When we attempt to live a holy life, but fail, it’s important to confess that sin not only to God, to those we hurt, and to our Christian brothers and sisters that are the closest to us, but also to anyone that might have witnessed that sin. It’s like the old bumper sticker from the 70’s, “Christians aren’t perfect, just forgiven.” If we don’t talk to those non-Christians around us, then they will never understand that we are forgiven when we confess that sin, that we don’t look on ourselves as perfect, and that we don’t look down on those that aren’t saved.

So in confessing the sins of Christians in the past, such as the Inquisition, the persecutions of the Jews, the forced conversion of Jews, the Crusades, Christians who participated in the slavery of millions of people, or <insert historical sin>, we can disarm that history and open a dialogue about why those sins happened and why true Christianity isn’t to blame, but the fallen nature in us is the culprit.

If you’re fighting the idea of confessing the sins of the past, consider why. Is it pride? “I didn’t do that, so I don’t have to confess anything!” Don’t forget what the Bible says about pride…