An Idiot Confesses

By Paul Koch –

Do you believe that my forgiveness is God’s forgiveness?

Yes.

Let it be done for you as you believe.

In the stead and by the command of my Lord Jesus Christ I forgive you all your sins in the name of the Father and of the † Son and of the Holy Spirit.

Amen.

These words fill my ears after I have just blurted out a shallow and rambling confession of my sins. I feel like such an idiot when I do this. I know full well that I’m a sinner. I know that I have sinned in thought, word and deed; but when I actually sit there with a brother who is ready to speak to me the forgiveness of Christ, I sound stupid. Oh I speak of sins. Just not the ones that I’m really embarrassed about, the ones no one knows. There are things I just don’t want to say, I don’t want to admit, I don’t want to hear outside of my own head.

My confession is weak and incomplete. Though I try and make a habit of actually going through the motions on a regular basis, I don’t seem to be getting much better at it. I rattle off sins that are bothering me but it all seems so clumsy and awkward. If the forgiveness spoken was in any way dependent upon the crappy confession I made, then I’m in a world of trouble.

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Of course, I’ve been on the other side of confessions like this more times than I can remember. I’ve sat there awkwardly as a penitent mumbles through his confession. It’s truly a strange ritual where sometimes in tears and sometimes with a stern look on their face, they confess things that aren’t really all that interesting. People are always concerned with the “seal” of the confessional; will I really not say anything to anyone about what is confessed? But truth be told, most confessions are like my own: weak and shallow. Even if I was going to tell someone else, there isn’t all that much to tell.

It is difficult to pull from the darkness within and cast it out into the light. And trust me, there is no more of a blinding light than speaking of them before another person. Even when we know that this person is there to speak forgiveness and is there to declare the pure Gospel of absolution, still we hesitate and fumble along like idiots. All the other gods that we cling to come into the light in our hesitation. Our fear of how we will be viewed, our love of the mask we’ve created before the world, our security in our own self-worth are all at stake when we confess our sins to another. And so, instead of laying it all out there we give little pieces, little sound bites that won’t jeopardize our own gods.

But there is something truly radical about absolution. The words of forgiveness don’t seem to give a crap about your weak idiotic confession. God’s gifts don’t work in percentages – well you confessed 43.5% of your sin so you’ve received an equal amount of grace. No! God’s mercy is an overflowing cup. On the lips of another I hear a Word that is outside my own darkness, outside my own schemes and gods. It is a Word that brings life and hope. And that Word of forgiveness embraces even my inability to rightly repent.

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So the words of absolution take even my broken little confession and use it as the grounds to forgive me of even the most well-hidden and vile sins of my darkness. To hear the words, “In the stead and by the command of my Lord Jesus Christ I forgive you all your sins in the name of the Father and of the † Son and of the Holy Spirit,” is to hear the Gospel, pure and undefiled. In that moment I again gasp for breath in the washing of Baptism as I die with my Lord and am promised life in Him.

So I will do it all over again. I will confess like an idiot only to be embraced as a child of light.

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4 thoughts on “An Idiot Confesses

  1. Confession is good for the soul. It is even much more. It is essential to remain humble and remember we are sinners in desperate need of God’s continual grace as we stumble through this earthly journey. Confess often. Look inward, test your own thoughts and words, seek to unmask and purge false pride hidden within our best works. Most of our anxiety, especially in my case, center around the reality that as I seek God’s forgiveness and absolution with an earnest and steadfast desire to cease from besetting sins….I find the plague still infects me and I know I will sin again and again. Such thoughts can make one fully aware of the broken promises we give to God even as we beseech Him to forgive us. We need to ask not only for His forgiveness for the sins we have committed, but for the sins we know we will commit in the future. God is indeed long suffering as He considers our sins of the mind and flesh. Hence, we remember why Jesus was sent as our redeemer.

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  2. Amen!

    “A man whose hands are full of parcels can’t receive a gift. Perhaps these parcels are not always sins or earthly cares, but sometimes our own fussy attempts to worship Him in our way.” CS Lewis

    Just let that weak confession fly, receive His grace, and let Him handle the rest!

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  3. My wife made a very astute observation when we were discussing the idea of confession and absolution. Neither of us come from a Lutheran or high church background, so the idea is rather new to us.

    Have you ever heard of 9 Marks Ministries? It’s very influential in “Reformed” Baptist circles. You can Google them. They teach that one of the 9 marks of a healthy church is the practice of church discipline. They see church discipline as one of the primary responsibilities of the church. In that way, they are exercising the keys of the kingdom.

    What is unfortunate, however, is that these churches do not also practice confession and absolution. My wife made the observation that church discipline and confession and absolution are really two sides of the same coin. Two ways of exercising the keys given to the church.

    It’s unfortunate (though quite telling) that many churches are only willing to declare that forgiveness is withheld from the impenitent, but they are unwilling to pronounce forgiveness upon the penitent.

    When it comes to pronouncing, “I declare to you the entire forgiveness of your sins,” they say, “only God can forgive sins! No priest has the authority to do that!” However, when it comes to binding a man and declaring that he is impenitent, they have absolutely no reservations. As my wife said, they only understand and apply the keys to the kingdom in a negative, disciplinary sense, but never in a positive, grace giving sense. They will gladly declare judgment in the stead of Christ, but never mercy. What a pity for their congregations.

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  4. I’m so thankful for God’s mercy in His Absolution. I’m like you. There’s a lot I don’t want to confess,but He forgives all the same.

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