Growing up in the Roman church, I always thought private confession was odd. I was glad my parents never made me do it (we were partial church-goers, at best).
Something seemed weird about sitting in a small booth with a priest and telling him (yes, always him) all the things I’ve done ‘wrong’.
I grew up with a strong distrust of clergy (as highly influenced by my dad) and saw confession from a rebellious point of view. Like, what should it matter if that guy in the robe forgives me? Isn’t the point for God to forgive me? Why should I go through him? Pssssht.
This mindset carried through until recently where I’ve returned to a confessional theology in the Lutheran faith. And I have to say, confession is one of my favorite parts of worship.
I haven’t done a private confession yet. To tell you the truth, I don’t even know if our church does them (we don’t have booths like the Roman church does, so I wouldn’t know how to even go about it).
We do a communal confession at the beginning of the service where we all kneel and recite a confessional rite that goes like this…
God of all mercy,
we confess that we have sinned against you,
opposing your will in our lives.
We have denied your goodness in each other,
in ourselves, and in the world you have created.
We repent of the evil that enslaves us,
the evil we have done,
and the evil done on our behalf.
Forgive, restore, and strengthen us
through our Savior Jesus Christ,
that we may abide in your love
and serve only your will. Amen.
Isn’t that beautiful? I get a little choked up every time.
It’s all about what lens you see this through. If you see this as an obligatory ‘work’ towards a begrudging God, it feels a lot like groveling. And groveling has never softened anyone’s heart.
But if you see this through a grace-based lens, you know that the source code of all creation — both human and otherwise — is as beloved, forgiven offspring of the divine. We are, by nature, forgiven beings.
It’s not that we have to confess.
It’s that we are free to confess.
From obligation to freedom. This is the power of grace. The grace that our confession reminds us of.
Confession reminds me that we, as humans, do heartless, hurtful, transgressive things to ourselves and each other. But in the recognition of grace, we are innately forgiven and free to realign with the nature of life itself (God’s will).
Our society has such an aversion to guilt. No one can feel ‘bad’ anymore. Modern spirituality bypasses guilt faster than grief, shame, or anything else.
But guilt is an integral human emotion. We need to name our guilt in a healthy way. Being direct about the ways I’ve hurt myself and others (and thusly, God) is incredibly cathartic and cleansing. Confession is one of the most powerful and transformative kenotic rituals we can perform.
I highly suggest it.
This post was begotten and made over at JonasEllison.com.