During the end of my family’s second term of missionary service in the DR Congo, I committed what in that society was a cardinal sin. My wife and I, trying to fix up a house before leaving for the United States for a year of furlough, were having some masonry work done and were also painting some of the rooms, trying to prepare them for our return to the DR Congo. We did not want to leave the house empty during our year in the United States, so we asked Wabalassa, a local Congolese preacher, whether he and his family would like to live in the house, rent-free, during our absence. He was elated by our offer. I encouraged him to move in but asked that he and his kids not enter certain rooms that we were still having fixed up. But whenever I stopped by to check on the carpenter’s and mason’s progress, they expressed their frustration about how Wabalassa’s children were messing up their work.
I reminded Wabalassa not to use certain rooms yet, but his children’s interference continued. After yet again hearing one of my workers describe how the kids had messed up his work, I lost it and went over to the house. When I arrived, I began yelling at Wabalassa, his wife, and his kids, my raised voice audible to neighbors on all sides: “I can’t believe you let your kids mess up the work again that I’ve been paying to have done—especially when I am letting you live in this house for free!” I stormed out of the yard and went home steaming mad. That night I couldn’t sleep as the Lord began to convict me of my angry reaction. I argued with the Lord, telling him that I was in the right and Wabalassa in the wrong. But the Lord prevailed, telling me that my response was wrong, especially in such a culture. In the DR Congo, to yell at someone in public was to bring great shame on that person—one of the worst sins you could commit against someone else.
The next Sunday, I asked to meet with Wabalassa and his wife after church. As we sat in a back room together, I humbly asked for their forgiveness, the tears flowing down my face. They forgave me, asking for my forgiveness for what had happened, also with many tears. I will never forget the cleansing feeling as I confessed my sin to them. Confessing not only brought healing to my heart, but also cemented my friendship with Wabalassa and his wife, making it stronger than ever. Sometimes a broken bone that heals properly can become stronger than ever at the place where it was originally broken. Similarly, confession can bring healing, reconciliation, and a closer relationship.
Reflections: Have you ever sinned against someone in the way that you confronted them about a wrong done to you? Ask the Lord to show you if there is anything you need to apologize for in your relationships with others.
“When I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long. For day and night your hand was heavy upon me; my strength was sapped as in the heat of summer. Then I acknowledged my sin to you and did not cover up my iniquity. I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord”—and you forgave the guilt of my sin.”