This riddle is about 2,000 years old, but the old ones are the best. A guy met some fishermen returning to the dock after a day at work. He asked them how their day had been. They responded with this riddle, “What we caught, we threw away; what we didn’t catch, we kept. What did we keep?”
The answer tells us a lot about confession.
What did the fishermen throw away? Not fish. Sure they could have thrown the small ones back, but how could they have kept fish which they hadn’t caught? The answer is that they were trying to catch something that they already had, but wanted to get rid of. Like say, hair lice. When they caught the little monsters, they threw them away, but it the lice were too quick to catch, the men were stuck with them.
In this regard lice are like our sins. We got them. They can cling to us like bad habits and bad attitudes.
If we can catch them, we can pull them off ourselves, and become pest free. For lice, the fishermen just had their fingers, for sin, we have confession.
By confessing sin, we capture it and give it to Christ, Who frees us. Now, no one would catch a louse and hold on to it, would they? But we often self-destructively cling to the evil in our flesh. Confession means not only admitting that the sin is ours, it is to reject it, and regard it as the little blood sucker that it is. How do we get rid of it? Give it to Jesus. He nailed it to the Cross where it can no longer harm you. This is what the catechism teaches about confession-
What is Confession?
Confession embraces two parts: the one is, that we confess our sins; the other, that we receive absolution, or forgiveness, from the pastor, as from God Himself, and in no wise doubt, but firmly believe, that our sins are thereby forgiven before God in heaven. (Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.” And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you withhold forgiveness from any, it is withheld.” John 20:22)
What sins should we confess?
Before God we should plead guilty of all sins, even of those which we do not know, as we do in the Lord’s Prayer. But before the pastor we should confess those sins alone which we know and feel in our hearts.
The Bible also tells us, “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”
So, here’s to confession, and the freedom it brings.