Faith and Family

Lynn Jones: Confession is difficult, but important

By Lynn Jones

Confession is hard. Confessing that we don’t know something that others expect us to know is especially difficult.

For instance, some people will ask me questions about the Bible, about church history, or about some obscure religious group. They assume that someone who went to the seminary as long as I did and served in the pastorate as long as I did, ought to know these kinds of things. Living up to these high expectations, however, is difficult if not impossible to do.

So, what am I to do when someone asks me a question like this? I could say that I don’t know, but I can hardly ever bring myself to say it. Instead, I have found an easier way to respond. I say, “I have forgotten.”

Lynn Jones

That is a wonderful response. Implied in the response is the fact that I once knew this minute point well. Unfortunately, with the press of business and the crowding of other vast stores of knowledge, I now find myself momentarily unable to retrieve this fact.

This is not as good as coming up with the correct answer, but it certainly is preferable to saying, “Beats me.” In fact, many people in the churches I have pastored have said, “You would not believe how smart our pastor is. He knows nothing now, but he once knew an astounding number of things.”

Another tactic that I sometimes use when someone asks me a difficult question on the phone is to stall for time while I type the question into my computer. This approach has allowed me to come up with very impressive answers.

Calvin Trillin said that he had also come up with a good way to deal with this quandary. When someone comes to him asking his opinion about some important matter that is taking place in our country, he always responds, “It’s too soon to tell.” He wrote, “`It’s too soon to tell’ is one of my favorite answers for any question; it’s that rare phrase that permits you to sound more informed by saying you don’t know. Just the other day, one of my daughters said, ‘Daddy, how do you find the area of an isosceles triangle?’ I responded, ‘It’s too soon to tell.’”

Confession is difficult for all of us. But no real progress and growth can take place in our lives until we are willing to confess our lack of knowledge, our failures, and our sins.

The Bible says, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word is not in us” (1 John 1:9-10).

Are you facing your failures or covering for them? A good beginning point for all of us would be honest confession.

Lynn Jones is a retired pastor who lives in Oxford. He does supply preaching for churches in his area and often serves as an interim pastor. Jones is also an author, has written two books and writes a weekly newspaper column. He may be contacted at: