Summary: There is great power in being freed from our sin through confession and forgiveness, and in forgiving those who have sinned against us.
Matthew 6:9-15, 18:21-35 “Forgive Us Our Sins as We Forgive Those Who Have Sinned Against Us”
We have heard the old saying, “Confession is good for the soul,” but for the most part, we try to ignore its message as it applies to our daily lives. We do not want to go in to the dark side of who we are. The popular mantra today is to concentrate on the positive; to work on the good and ignore the bad.
A few voices sound a contradictory and unharmonious note in song to think positively. Groups that deal with addiction, like Alcoholics Anonymous and its off shoots, have rediscovered the importance of confession and have made it a core part of their programs. Certainly we cannot avoid the issue of confession when we pray the Lord’s Prayer. When we begin to see the value of confession and to take it seriously, we discover that we are all too similar to the unjust servant in today’s Scripture lesson.
THE PROCESS OF CONFESSION
Many in the Christian church understand confession to be a type of accounting process. God waits for us to confess our sin. When we come to God and confess our sins, then God checks off those confessed sins and they are forgiven. The goal of the practice of confession becomes having fewer and fewer sins to confess, and having a clean slate when we die.
Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God (using an Old Testament image of the sacrificial lamb that was used to take away sins) died for the sins of the world. Jesus cried out on the cross, “It is finished,” when he did so, he was proclaiming that all of our sins, past, present and future were paid for and forgiven.
Paul affirms this in his letter to the Romans when he writes, “Therefore, since we have been justified through faith we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 5:1). Being justified—freed from sin and in a right relationship with God—is a past, completed act.
Indeed, God has forgiven the sins of all those who walk by faith in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Our sins are forgiven because of the cross of Jesus Christ and not because of our confession. With this truth, we are then confronted with the question, “Why do we need to confess our sins and ask for forgiveness?”
THE REASONS FOR CONFESSION
Those in recovery groups discover that confession—making a fearless moral inventory and confessing it—is good for the soul. Christians have discovered that confession is a vital part of our Christian life.
Confession reminds us of who we are. We are sinners in need of a savior. Nicky Gumble, the creator of the ALPHA Course, talks about placing ourselves on a line of righteousness, with the worst person on the bottom and the best person on the top. Once we find out where we place ourselves, we then realize that no one is good enough to get to God. Paul writes in Romans 3:23, “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” All of us need God’s grace and forgiveness.
Confession reminds us of who God is. God is a gracious and loving God who forgives all of our sins even though we do not deserve to have our sins forgiven. God wants us to experience a life with God—a personal relationship with God.
Confession allows us to see the effects of our sin. Sin is not accomplished in a vacuum. Sin hurts us and the people around us. We often find it necessary not only to confess our sin to God, but to also apologize to the people we have hurt and make restitution for our sin.
THE GIFT OF FORGIVING OTHERS
The story of the unjust servant reminds us that we have been forgiven a great deal. We should be overwhelmed by God’s grace, love, and forgiveness in our lives. We should be so overwhelmed that we forgive everyone who has sinned against us—even if they don’t ask to be forgiven.
We lie to ourselves and convince ourselves, that holding grudges will hurt other people and force them to pay in some small way for their sins. Grudges harm us more than those who have sinned against us.
The burden of unforgiveness is a heavy one. It keeps us from experiencing the abundance of the life that God gives us through Jesus.
Forgiveness of others is one of the greatest proclamations of the gospel of Jesus Christ. One of the most moving scenes that recently appeared on television was Pope John Paul forgiving the man who tried to assassinate him. Corrie ten Boom, an author talks about the time when she was called on to forgive the guard at the concentration camp in WWII where here sister died.