Confession and Absolution
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Where is this written?
This is what St. John the Evangelist writes in chapter twenty: The Lord Jesus breathed on His disciples and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive anyone his sins, they are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.” (John 20:22–23)
What do you believe according to these words?
I believe that when the called ministers of Christ deal with us by His divine command, in particular when they exclude openly unrepentant sinners from the Christian congregation and absolve those who repent of their sins and want to do better, this is just as valid and certain, even in heaven, as if Christ our dear Lord dealt with us Himself.
“I’ll never forgive that!” Have you thought this about someone, or even about yourself?
Forgiveness isn’t easy. In fact, it’s impossible without the Spirit’s work within us.
Interactions with other people sometimes become angry, bitter, and bruised. Our sharp communication skills often fall flat. We harbor grudges, self-righteously demanding behavior from others that we can’t maintain. We fake high ground with low behavior.
When we commit to bitterness and marry a grudge, we put our own forgiveness in jeopardy. Like the unforgiving servant in Jesus’ parable, we take God’s forgiveness for granted and impose harsh judgment on the minor sins of others (Matthew 18:21–35). We pray, “And forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us,” but do we really want our Lord to forgive us the way that we forgive others? Ouch!
Sometimes, we struggle to forgive ourselves. We confess and seek forgiveness, but rather than receive Absolution in Jesus’ name, we quickly pick up our sins and take them back. We act as if Jesus’ sacrifice is not sufficient.
Other times, we may take forgiveness from Jesus for granted. We don’t repent and turn away from our sins. We just dump them and run. We tell ourselves it’s not a big deal to ask the Lord to forgive us, again. We forget the blood sacrifice made to pay for our sins and God’s deep love that compelled it.
Instead, let’s ask the Holy Spirit to make us repentant and contrite, and to open our hearts to God’s forgiveness in Christ, our Savior. Forgiveness and changing attitudes are the Holy Spirit’s work; and Jesus promised always to give us the Spirit when we ask (Luke 11:13). May His mercy and grace wash away our delusions and renew our hearts and minds.
Catechism quotations are from Luther’s Small Catechism with Explanation, copyright © 1986 Concordia Publishing House. All rights reserved. Used by permission.