“If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar and His word is not in us. ” 1 John 1:8-10
Recently an elderly member of our congregation died. The “funeral” was not held at the church because the woman’s daughter did not want the Pastor to say her mother was a sinner. Instead, she wanted a “celebration of life” where her mother’s virtues and accomplishments were lauded.
Don’t get me wrong. This woman was smart, funny and creative. She had done many good things for her community, and yes, this deserved to be remembered with rejoicing. However, as my husband puts it, “if we’re not sinners, the gospel isn’t good news.” If we’re not sinners, we don’t need Jesus. If we’re not sinners, we can make it on our own. The fact that we’re sinners is the starting point for a faithful life.
The verses above tell us that when we deny our sinfulness, we’re living a lie. Only when we confess and turn to God in true humility, will we begin to experience the freedom of forgiveness. If you’re a Lutheran, you probably have a point, very early in the worship service, called “Confession of Sin.” That’s so we come before God acknowledging our unworthiness. Here’s how the one at St. Paul’s reads:
“Holy and righteous God, merciful Father, we confess to You that we are by nature sinful and unclean, and that we have sinned against You by thought, word and deed. We have not loved You above all things, nor our neighbor as ourselves, and are worth therefore to be cast away from Your presence if You should judge us according to our sins.”
I don’t know about you, but I know if my heart that I haven’t loved God above all things –in my inner heart what I love best is myself! And my neighbors? Well, they’re pretty far down on my list. I’m much more likely to criticize and complain than love them. So guess what, that makes me a sinner. No matter how many good works I do, no matter how many hours I pray, or worship services I attend.
Here’s the good news (also from the liturgy).
“But you have promised, O heavenly Father, to receive with tender mercy all repentant sinners who turn to You and with a living faith seek refuge in Your Fatherly compassion and in the merits of the Savior, Jesus Christ. Our transgressions You will not regard, nor count them against us.”
Confession is good for the soul. I need to do it not just weekly, but daily. It puts me in the right place — depending on God.