For most of his adult life, Jesus was a carpenter
in an agrarian society. This meant that he would have built houses; and also
constructed, and repaired, agricultural tools: ploughs and yokes for breaking
the soil, sickles for harvesting, threshing sledges for breaking open the
harvested grain. This, in turn, would have involved a process of development
that included trial and error, the deconstruction of certain received
practices, and the construction of new ways that built on tried and tested
Reflecting, many years later, on the experience of
having known Jesus, one of his disciples, John, wrote that anyone who
constructs justice is a child of God, while anyone who practices missing that
mark is a child of the devil; indeed, the children of God cannot construct
injustice, for God’s own seed (which produces a harvest of righteousness) is
planted in them. (See 1 John 3.7-10)
It is possible to imagine two ways of being a
carpenter, one that intentionally constructs justice and another that
deliberately undermines it. The latter makes tools they know won’t last, so
that their customers will have to return again and again; perhaps they also cut
a deal with some powerful figure to ensure their own monopoly, preventing the
community from seeking better. In contrast, the former works to develop their
skill, their craft, to put quality tools that will last generations into the
hands of those who worked the land, by the sweat of whose brows the community
was fed. Tools made with love, given in love.
And whichever way you choose to put into practice
becomes second nature in time.
The regular discipline of Confession is a
disruptive practice that undermines the possibility of constructing injustice
before we can get going. It prevents a habit from forming, or, indeed, weakens
a habit that we want to break and move on from. But it also has planted within
it the seed of a new habit, the habit of loving God with every part of our
being, and loving others as ourselves, wanting for them what we want for us.
This is the seed that, in the fulness of time, produces a harvest of justice.
Confession is the plough that turns over the hard
soil of our hearts.