Opinions differ about the Roman Catholic practice of confessing to a priest. But I think that Roman Catholics are onto something—confession offers something mysteriously powerful and healing. I would like to extend the practice of confession to a doctrine called “the priesthood of all believers.” The Apostle Peter told first-century Christians that they were a holy priesthood. I really think we should take our priestly function with each other seriously. As priests, we serve as bridges between God and people who are hurting. We become “God with skin on”: God with a touchable face.
Once, while preaching a revival at a small church, I decided to pass out a small reminder of my sermon’s main point, the priesthood of all believers, taken from 1 Peter 2:9: “But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.” Sometimes our culture promotes an unbiblical separation of “sacred and secular,” and nowhere more than in the church, where we ordain professional ministers or clergy, considering everyone else laity. Before my revival sermon, I made some homemade clerical collars from white poster board and then, at the end of the sermon, took off my tie and put one of the white strips of poster board in the collar of my blue shirt. I asked the congregation what I looked like; they responded, “A priest.” Then I told them that I had a clerical collar to give to each person at the door when we shook hands on their way out.
I dared them to wear the collars the following week—at their workplace, on their tractor, at the coffee shop, or while working around the house—to remind them that each of us is a priest. The Bible teaches that every follower of Christ is a minister—not just those who get paid to do ministry. Churches are full of members who don’t realize that their “secular” jobs are places of ministry. One of my favorite professors in Seminary used to say, “Your ordination to ministry is your baptism.”
I have had the privilege of being a priest of God in several people’s lives as they confessed sins to me. For example, one day a few years ago, a woman named Linda (not her real name) came up to me after a church service and asked if she and her husband could speak with me privately. At the time I was serving as a volunteer Elder at that church. We were able to talk privately in the Senior Minister’s office. The wife was very emotional and sincerely confessed several bad things that she had said and done to her husband during a recent argument. The one that seemed to bother her the most was when she physically him and yelled, “you are a loser!” At the end of her confession, I felt prompted to put my hand on her arm and looked her straight in the eye, speaking God’s truth to her: “You are forgiven right now for all the bad things you thought and did to your husband.” The truth of God’s forgiveness seemed to have an immediate healing effect on her and on her relationship with her husband, who had also forgiven her.
Reflections: Have you ever played the role of a Priest with someone? Is there someone in your life right now who needs to hear the truth of God spoken directly to him/her?
But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.
1 Peter 2:9