John Ortberg is a teaching pastor at Willow Creek Community Church, Illinois. He tells the story of how he and his wife once traded in their old Volkswagon Super Beetle for their first piece of new furniture: a mauve sofa.

The man at the furniture store warned them not to get it when he found out they had small children. “You don’t want a mauve sofa” he advised. “Get something the colour of dirt.” But with the naive optimism of young parenthood they said “We know how to handle our children. Give us the mauve sofa.”

From that moment on everyone knew the number one rule in the house. Don’t sit on the mauve sofa. Don’t touch the mauve sofa. Don’t play around the mauve sofa. Don’t eat on, breathe on, look at, or think about the mauve sofa. It was like the forbidden tree in the Garden of Eden. “On every other chair in the house you may freely sit, but upon this sofa, the mauve sofa, you may not sit, for in the day you sit thereupon, you shall surely die.”

Then came the Fall.

One day there appeared on the mauve sofa a stain. A red stain. A red jelly stain.

So John’s wife, who had chosen the mauve sofa and adored it, lined up their three children in front of it: Laura, age four, Mallory, two and a half, and Johnny, six months.

“Do you see that, children?” she asked. “That’s a stain. A red stain. A red jelly stain. The man at the sofa store says it is not coming out. Not forever. Do you know how long forever is children? That’s how long we’re going to stand here until one of you tells me who put the stain on the mauve sofa.”

Mallory was the first to break. With trembling lips and tear-filled eyes she said “Laura did it.” Laura passionately denied it. Then there was silence, for the longest time. No one said a word. John Ortberg knew they wouldn’t, for they had never seen their mother so upset. He knew they wouldn’t because they knew that if they did they would spend eternity in the time-out chair. He knew they wouldn’t because he was the one who put the red jelly stain on the sofa, and he wasn’t saying anything!

The truth is, of course, that we have all stained the sofa. God offered us forgiveness, but many of us struggle to feel forgiven. This is why God has given us the practise of confession. When we practise confession well we are liberated from guilt and we will not be able to look at the sin in the same way in the future.

Source: John Ortberg, The Life You’ve Always Wanted.