Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Confession

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just 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. I John 1:9 KJV
My walk this bright cold morning took me past one of our large old Roman Catholic churches. As I passed the church the parochial school kids were at recess, happy and loud. I noticed an elderly man walk from the church to a waiting car. His demeanor was serious and it occurred to me that he might have just then come from confession. For much of the rest of my walk I thought about confession and how we practice it.

Faithful Catholics "make confession" to a priest on a regular basis. After confession the priest reassures them of God's forgiveness and may assign penance. Those of us who affirm the "priesthood of all believers" reject the necessity of that approach and tend to assume that it lends itself to a rote general recitation of sins and a too easily achieved clear conscience. I'm not so sure. Needless to say, every communion has its nominal followers, but failure to live up to a standard doesn't discredit the standard. If it did, there would be none.

I do not think that a Christian needs to confess to another person in order to receive God's forgiveness - in fact, I am convinced that is not so - but I do think a regular discipline of confession would compel me to reflect more often on my failings and my dependence on God's grace in Christ. If I knew that I would have to say something to someone who was physically present perhaps I would engage in more genuine introspection and, consequently, more meaningful repentance.

The more liturgical churches include a prayer of confession followed by assurance of forgiveness in every worship service. Baptists tend not to do that. Even the use of the Lord's Prayer with it's "forgive us our trespasses" seems increasingly uncommon as many of our churches turn away from any regular order of worship.

Both individual devotions and corporate worship need to include confession.
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