S (Scripture): 1 John 1:8 If we say we do not bear the guilt of sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us. 9 But if we confess our sins, he is faithful and righteous, forgiving us our sins and cleansing us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar and his word is not in us.
O (Observation): John writes about the fact that part of being a believer is to recognize our shortcomings. We sin. Plain and simple. We are to walk in the light, but we cannot let that walk blind us to the fact that we still have this flesh that hangs around our neck.
A (Application): Our walk is one of sainthood and peccator-hood. (Peccator = Sinner, in Latin)
These words from 1 John 1 are extremely familiar to Lutherans. These were the standard words spoken between the worship leader and the congregation during the portion of worship we call “Confession & Forgiveness.”
As I was growing up, acknowledging our sinfulness and receiving absolution of those sins as God’s people together was extremely formative for me. We opened every worship service with the recognition from 1 John, that we are sinners and cannot free ourselves. Then, typically the pastor would acknowledge our repentance in a corporate way and declare God’s forgiveness of our sins as a corporate act.
One body. Repentant. Forgiven. An act that has shaped me for almost 4 decades now. I hope that never goes away.
Have you ever had someone declare you forgiven of all your sins? Did that feel true to you? Did it feel like empty words? Why?
For a film that deals with the real-life struggles with confession and forgiveness, check out the movie Get Low, starring Robert Duvall, Bill Murray, and Sissy Spacek. A friend of mine, Scott Seeke, co-wrote the screenplay, and wrote the follow-up book, Uncle Bush’s Live Funeral.
P (Prayer): Forgiving God, keep our hearts pure and repentant. Give us a posture of humility. Amen.