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Confession and Absolution, What sins should we confess?


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What sins should we confess?

Before God we should plead guilty of all sins, even those we are not aware of, as we do in the Lord’s Prayer; but before the pastor we should confess only those sins which we know and feel in our hearts.


Which are these?

Consider your place in life according to the Ten Commandments: Are you a father, mother, son, daughter, husband, wife, or worker? Have you been disobedient, unfaithful, or lazy? Have you been hot-tempered, rude, or quarrelsome? Have you hurt someone by your words or deeds? Have you stolen, been negligent, wasted anything, or done any harm?


History records Martin Luther as a champion confessor. As a young monk, Luther’s sins tortured him so persistently that he confessed for hours to Dr. Johann von Staupitz, his supervisor, mentor, and personal confessor. Luther also fasted rigorously and imposed other self-punishments for his sins, but they offered little relief.

Staupitz understood Luther’s despair and adjured him to trust God’s grace and forgiveness in Jesus, the Savior. Staupitz also encouraged Luther to study the Scriptures, which opened his heart and ears to God’s love and mercy in Christ Jesus.

Today, people more likely avoid confession rather than obsess over sin. Professing “freedom,” we work overtime to justify sin, remove stigma, and pursue selfish impulses. But these actions do not provide freedom; instead, they enslave us to sin.

Think you have nothing to confess? Consider the Ten Commandments, and then admit your sin. True freedom comes from forgiveness in Christ. This freedom enriches and compels us to serve one another in love, not indulge our flesh (Galatians 5:13).

Luther said, “When I urge you to go to Confession, I am doing nothing else than urging you to be a Christian. . . . For those who really desire to be true Christians, to be rid of their sins, and to have a cheerful conscience already possess the true hunger and thirst” (Brief Exhortation to Confession 32).

May we hunger and thirst for Christ’s righteousness, the joy of salvation, and the true freedom of the Gospel!



What should you do if you find yourself resisting confession during worship? Or in a strained relationship?


Dear Lord, open our hearts to hear Your Word. Show us our sins and take us to the cross to receive forgiveness from Christ, our Savior. Help us live a life of Confession and Absolution each day. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.


Catechism quotations are from Luther’s Small Catechism with Explanation, copyright © 1986 Concordia Publishing House. All rights reserved. Used by permission.

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