Article for the March Newsletter, 2021
In the TV show, Better Call Saul, Mike Ehrmantraut is a retired police officer from Philadelphia who has moved to New Mexico to be close to his daughter-in-law and granddaughter. At one point you learn that his son, also a police officer, was killed because he was not wanting to join in the corruption that was rampant in his Philadelphia precinct. Prior to his son’s death, Mike confronted his son. He warned him not to go to Internal Affairs. He said, “If you even look like you are going to talk, you’re dead.” But Matt, Mike’s son, is stubborn and strong.
So, Mike confesses. He thinks it is the only way to save his son. He tells his son that he has been on the take. That he is just like the other cops, just getting by. He does what he can to talk his son done. He loves him. He wants to protect him. He knows the sins of his fellow cops. He knows what they are capable of, and so he confesses. He diminishes himself in front of his son so he might save him. This moment of failure crushes Mike and doesn’t do much to help his son. “He put me up on a pedestal,” Mike says, “and I had to show him I was down in the gutter with the rest of them.” It broke his son, and it broke Mike. Matt took the money, but it did not save him. He still was killed by the cops he despised.
As parents and as Christians, we spend quite a bit of our time playing the hero. We don’t speak of our failures in front of our children because we like being on the pedestal. Maybe it is the god-complex that came with the Fall in the Garden of Eden, or maybe it is our own fears that if people knew who we really are, they would hate us, leave us, and never speak to us. All of this is true. It’s the way of things in the world of sin in which we live – sinners despising one another’s sins, because we hope theirs are worse than ours.
What if this ended with you and with me? What if we held to this Lenten discipline of confession and made sure our kids were raised in a house and life to know that we are a people who confess our sins? A people who have a low anthropology, meaning that we don’t walk around assuming the good in people, but know that one day we will meet each other in that gutter? That is the way to Calvary. That is where we kneel together beside our child, our neighbor, and even our pastor, knowing that we are broken, but there is One who searches the gutters, the garbage heaps, and outhouses for all the guests for his feast because the invited one’s thought themselves too good to eat with him. (Luke 14:15-24)
So, confess your sins to your children. Help them to know you for who you are, not the trophy dad or mom whose life is golden roads and rainbows, but the sinner saved by grace. Because it is in our confession to one another that we then see fit to make sure they know of the One who forgives us all our sins through his blood shed on the cross. That is the purpose of confession, the forgiveness that follows. Because when we fall, and they know it, they are prepared for the day when the same happens to them. And when the tears are dry and the wounds bandaged, they know of Jesus Christ, the Incarnate God of history, who hears their confession, and always stands to forgive.