Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Private Confession and Absolution

The heart of Lutheran theology and practice is the proclamation of the forgiveness of sins. The rite of private confession and absolution is a wonderful treasure beyond comparison in Christ’s church. This is a wonderful way that God graciously meets us to bestow this forgiveness. Lutherans have retained the rite of private confession and absolution because it is given by God for our benefit.

When we come to confess our sins to the Pastor we may confess any sins that trouble or burden our conscience. Even the ones that we think as so horrible, Jesus is ready and willing to forgive them all. The church chancel, sanctuary, of anywhere the Pastor meet you is a “safe place.” Whatever you share in the relationship with your Pastor he will readily hear and absolve. “Absolve,” means simply to forgive sin. And the sin is not only forgiven but forgotten. Those sins which you confess are dead, to be held against you no more.

What sins should we confess in private confession? Before the Pastor we are to confess those sins which we know and feel in our hearts. We will consider our place according to the Ten Commandments. Have we failed to fear and love God above all things? Have we been disrespectful to parents and authorities? Have we been lazy or dishonest at our place of work? Have we been negligent to the needs of our family, friends, or neighbor? It is clear that we need plenty of forgiveness! And God so dearly wants to speak His words of forgiveness to us because he so dearly loves us.

Dr. Luther writes:

“If you are a Christian, you should be glad to run more than a hundred miles for confession, not under compulsion but rather coming and compelling us to offer it. For here the compulsion must be inverted; we must come under the command and you must come into freedom. We compel no man, but allow ourselves to be compelled, just as we are compelled to preach and administer the sacrament” (460:30).

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