Jesus died for sinners. Jesus did not die for people who are okay, great or doing just fine on my own, thank you. Jesus did not die for the righteous, for those who don’t believe they have any sin or who believe they are decent human beings without need for a savior. Jesus died for sinners. Broken, hurting, lost and needy sinners. Broken, rude, gossiping and bickering sinners. Jesus died for sinners because Jesus came to forgive sinners their sin and cleanse them from all unrighteousness.
But if you are not a sinner, if you are okay, great, doing just fine on my own, then this isn’t for you. You need not apply. You can stand before God who is the source and gives being to all righteousness, purity, holiness and perfect justice and know that it is before this that your life is compared, that who you are meant to be is a reflection of all that God is into your world. This is the comparison that is drawn and all that is not pure, holy and perfectly just cannot dwell within the light of God.
But’s that not fair, we say, we’ve tried our best, we’re only human after all. But to be only human means to be God’s reflection in this world, when we are less than that we are actually being less than human.
Maybe, I’ll try harder, be better, be more and more. Maybe, but what does your heart tell you, what does your consciousness speak to you, when compared to what perfect love can be how do you spend your moments and days?
But I can’t, that’s impossible. You’re right, it is. I can’t go up and make myself more holy? Nope. Even trying harder makes the light seems brighter and my darkness darker? Yup. What can I do?
It starts with who God is and what God has done for you in His love. God has already forgiven all of your sins in Jesus. God has already knelt down in the mud for you. It’s time to receive that blessing from His hand.
Confess your sins, God who is faithful and just will forgive your sins and cleanse you from all unrighteousness. That means that when I urge you to go to confession I am simply urging you to be a Christian.
When we talk about Confession and Absolution, or Private Confession and Absolution or terms like the Office of the Keys, it might conjure up in our minds all sorts of images and ideas like confessional booths, meeting with a priest, calling in before you could take Holy Communion that month. Or feelings of fear, guilt, embarrassment, or I could never tell the Pastor “that!” But for a moment, take all of those away, all of those connotations about what Confession and Absolution may look like in your mind and don’t even call it confession and absolution, but go to the very heart of what it’s about.
That is, the heart of Confession and Absolution is the heart of what it means to be a Christian. It’s not some outdated relic or practice that we shouldn’t do anymore because it makes us feel bad but it is at the very center of what it means to be and do our Christian faith. That is the acknowledgement from the heart of our need and receiving God’s answer to our need in Jesus.
So, what places does this acknowledgement happen or should happen. First, in our own hearts. Acknowledge that we are in need of a savior and in faith receive God’s answer to our need in Jesus. That of course is simply what it means to be a Christian.
Next, this good confession of faith does not happen privately alone, or is even just a one time event. But it is a regular acknowledgement of our need and God’s answer to that need in Jesus, among all of those past, present and future who continue to make that same confession whether on Earth or in Heaven or yet to come. This is the Church, which is simply all those in faith God has brought together who acknowledge their need and receive God’s answer in Jesus.
Where best to make this public acknowledgement of our need and receive God’s answer but in worship as God’s people come together. It’s important to do this together because it places us in the proper context to receive God’s answer to our need in Jesus. It places us in the proper context with the people around us we are worshipping with as well. Not one of us is in more need of a savior and not one of us is in less need of a savior, but we all have the same common need, none greater or less for God’s answer in Jesus. The ground is level at the foot of the cross.
Because the ground is level and we all have the same common need then there doesn’t have to be any fear when our need manifests itself in hurtful words, gossip, prideful feelings, quarreling or looking down upon others, but we do what we do publicly and go privately to those we may have hurt and acknowledge our need. Whatever the manifestation of that need is, hurtful words or gossip or something else, even if it isn’t the same manifestation of our need that the other person has, the need is all the same and all the same in the eyes of our God. That means the answer is all the same as well and God has given us this answer to share with each other, freely and often without fear of incrimination because all our acknowledged sinners in the hands of a merciful God.
But often you simply just need to hear God’s answer in Jesus for your need in your name in a safe place that is spoken only among you and your pastor. Your pastor who has exactly the same need as you do, so he would never look down upon you or share your struggle with others but is there solely to offer the comfort of God’s answer in Jesus and then some good biblical counsel on what to do next.
Maybe when we understand it this way, when we take away all of the titles, pictures in our minds, and stereotypes about confession and absolution and understand it how it really is. Our need and God’s answer in Jesus. Then not only can we start to see that this is nothing more than simply being a Christian but we can also put being a Christian into practice in this good, biblical and honorable way, confessing our need: privately, in worship, with your brothers and sisters in Christ and with your pastor and receiving God’s answer in Jesus each and every time.