The predictable media storm has erupted around the notable example of public confession by Liam Neeson that he once felt that he wanted to kill a black man and that he harboured the intent for about a week almost 40 years ago.
The reaction on social and main stream media is predictable. The public opening of his latest film on the topic Cold Pursuit has been cancelled and Bonnie Greer has called it a “silly, stupid thing to do”. Neeson explained that he wanted to open a debate on racism and political correctness.
There will be a debate on Neeson’s character, the purpose and timing of such a confession, the wisdom or otherwise of such a public confession, etc., but the important point is the reaction of people to public confession.
Voluntary, public confession is often misread and misunderstood as an opportunity to attack the confessor. It is for this reason that insurance companies advise people involved in a car accident not to admit liability. The reason is that there might be faults on both sides, and if one party confesses liability, the other one may keep quiet and let that party take all the blame. This experience is why many people will not confess their sins to God, because they expect His anger and want to avoid it. They do not understand the character of God and misread it from their adverse experiences with ungodly human beings.
The godly know that they are sinners, but secular morality does not like this assessment and contradicts it.
The world needs to learn to confess sin, but it is safer to do so to God than to secular human beings who are likely to misunderstand, miscall and mistreat you. The Bible teaches the controlled circumstances for confession of sin to God and to one’s fellow human beings. Private confession can also be a mistake. The Roman Catholic confessional is not one of these places; experience has taught that it is a hotbed for vice. If you get public confession wrong, you are likely to provoke the media storm witnessed by Neeson. Former US-President Jimmy Carter provoked a similar storm when he confessed in the run-up to the 1976 Presidential election, “I’ve looked on a lot of women with lust. I’ve committed adultery in my heart many times.” The reaction is because of the general ignorance of human nature, of the Bible, and more particularly of the Christian Gospel.
Slowly, slowly, the force of truth is exposing the reality about human nature to a global audience. Hopefully, the solution in and through the Lord Jesus Christ will have similar global attention in the near future.
‘Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another’ James 5:16.
6 Feb 2019: BBC Newsnight tonight alerted me to other commentators who disagree with the self-righteous reaction to Neeson’s voluntary and public confession. David Aaronovitch wrote in The Times that these “virtue-signallers” are “part of the problem, not the solution”. He finishes his article “it probably won’t change anyone’s mind.”
Changing one’s mind is what the Bible calls ‘repentance’. It is basic and central to the Christian Gospel. We are not the finished article. We need to change, as Jesus told Nicodemus not to marvel that it is necessary for people ‘to be born again’ John 3:7. They need a change of heart, a new spirit given to them by the Holy Spirit of God, a better spirit than the one with which they were born.