Blended Families Part 12: Seven A’s of Confession
In last week’s post, Blended Families Part 11: How to Start Dealing with Ex’s, we talked about some of the reasons for conflict and the beginning steps of working toward a better relationship with an ex-spouse. We discussed the need to first seek God’s help to have the right heart attitude and then to do some self-examination (Matt. 7.3-5).
I suggested making a “log list” of ways you’ve sinned against your ex without focusing on what he or she has done or not done.
This week in “Blended Families Part 12: Seven A’s of Confession,” we’ll look at the next step.
Seeking Peace Starts with You
God puts a high priority on peace and reconciliation in our relationships.
Do all that you can to live in peace with everyone (Rom. 12.18 NLT).
23 Therefore if you bring your gift to the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, 24 leave your gift there before the altar, and go your way. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift (Matt. 5.23-24).
He doesn’t say seek peace with everyone but your ex, but rather do “all that you can” to live at peace with “everyone.” Certainly, there are some people who won’t be at peace with us, but unless there is some reason (like physical abuse or safety issues), we should be willing to do our part.
The next step is seeking forgiveness for the things on your log list.
This can be challenging if you believe your ex-spouse is the one who should be asking for forgiveness, but remember, you are only responsible for you. What the other person has done is between them and God.
Seeking Forgiveness God’s Way
Seeking forgiveness requires three things: repentance, confession, and asking.
Repentance is a change of thinking that leads to a change of action. Confession is to agree with what God says about something and asking is more than saying, “I’m sorry.” It is a sincere request to be released from a debt.
The Seven A’s of Confession
Peacemaker Ministries explains what’s involved in a biblical confession:
- Address Everyone Involved. As a general rule, you should confess your sins to every person who has been directly affected by your wrongdoing. Note that since all sins offend God by violating His will, all sins should be first confessed to Him.
- Avoid If, But, and Maybe. The best way to ruin a confession is to use words that shift the blame to others or that appear to minimize or excuse your guilt.
- Admit Specifically. Specific admissions help convince others that you are honestly facing up to what your have done.
- Acknowledge the Hurt. Your goal is to show that you understand how the other person felt as a result of your words or actions. Although you should not dwell excessively on feelings, it is important to show that you understand how other people feel and to express genuine sorrow for hurting them.
- Accept the Consequences. The harder you work to make restitution and repair any damage you have caused, the easier it will be for others to believe your confession is genuine.
- Alter Your Behavior. Explain to the person how you plan to change your behavior in the future. This could involve describing some of the attitude, character, and behavior changes you hope to make with God’s help.
- Ask for Forgiveness (and Allow Time). Ask, “Will you forgive me?” Be willing to allow the person some time to work through things.
Examples of biblical confessions:
“I realize I have not been treating you fairly and I want to change. Specifically, I have made it hard for you to pick up the kids and I have frequently brought them to your house late, cutting into your time with them. I plan to make every effort to have them there on time and ready when you to pick them up at my house. I’d like to make it up to you by allowing you to have them for Thanksgiving, even though it’s my turn. I want you to know that I’m sincere and I hope to prove it to you. Will you forgive me?”
“I want to ask forgiveness for lying about you in court. I told the judge that you were not a good mother/father. I also lied about how much money I make. I have damaged your reputation and cheated you out of child support. I plan to write the judge a letter and I will give a copy to you and both of our lawyers so the child support can be adjusted. Will you please forgive me?”
Some of you probably gasped when you read the second one. Taking responsibility for things like that runs contrary to the adversarial nature of the divorce process. But we are called to live radical lives … radically pleasing to God. And remember part of sincere repentance includes a willingness to accept the consequences of our actions.
Push Back from Your Current Spouse
Even though you may be convinced of the necessity of confession and restitution, your current spouse may or may not be completely on board, especially where either contact with your ex or financial repercussions are concerned.
Spend some time talking about it, praying together, and searching God’s Word for verses and principles that apply. If necessary, seek out the help of a pastor or biblical counselor.
If you go to your ex-spouse in person (usually the best way when possible), your current spouse should accompany you. If your ex is remarried, his or her spouse should be present, as well. If it’s necessary to do it by letter or phone call, let your ex know that your spouse is sitting with you or will read the letter before you send it.
Remember, repentance is a change of mind that leads to a change in behavior. 2 Timothy 3.16 says:
All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness.
God’s Word contains doctrine. Doctrine is truth. It’s what God says about something. It also reproves us and shows us where we’re not living right. Then it corrects us. It shows us what change should look like. And finally, it is for “instruction in righteousness.” That’s making right living a lifestyle.
So we could say, genuine repentance is a change of mind, a renewing of our minds to what God says is the right way to live, and as we come to understand it, we seek to conform our lives to that way of living.
So what would right living look like going forward?
Ephesians 4.31-32 says:
31 Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice. 32 And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you.
The Christian life involves both putting off sinful behavior and putting on new righteous ways of living (Eph. 4.22-24). So as followers of Christ we must make a choice to put off bitterness and all forms of anger, but in order to do that, we must replace those things with kindness, tenderheartedness (compassion), and forgiveness.
So when we’re tempted to be sinfully angry because the child support is late or the kids aren’t home on time, we must choose to think and act kindly toward the other person. And trust me, you won’t act kindly to him or her if you don’t get a handle on thinking kindly. You must choose compassion by putting yourself in the other person’s place and by believing the best of him (1 Cor. 13.7). And finally, you must choose to forgive “even as God in Christ forgave you.” That means we choose to forgive even when the other person doesn’t deserve it.
Philippians 2.3-4 says:
3 Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. 4 Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too (NLT).
We must also put off selfishness and pride. As believers, we are to put off looking out only for ourselves and what’s best for us and choose to take an interest in what matters to the other person.
That doesn’t mean failing to keep your current spouse and family as your priority, but it means we are to do everything we do out of our love and concern for others, even our ex.
*Some information in this series was developed from a Bible study by Jeff & Amy Baker.
Some of the subjects I’ll cover in future blogs:
Blended families in the Bible
Damage control—healing the mistakes
Dealing with in-laws and out-laws
Helping your child be part of the “other” blended family
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