Tuesday, March 10, 2015

A Thought for Tuesday 10 March 2015

“If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.  If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.  If we say we have not sinned, we make Him a liar and His word is not in us.”  1 John 1:8-10 NKJV

The Roman Catholic Church expresses and upholds seven sacraments, two of which are retained in the Wesleyan Methodist tradition: baptism, and holy communion.  Among the other five is the sacrament of reconciliation; aka, “confession”.  Even among Catholics, this sacrament is not often observed for a variety of reasons, not least of which is likely a misunderstanding of the depth not only of “confession” but also of “reconciliation” and probably also “sacrament”.

Yet the Church’s liturgical calendar repeats Lent year after year – and will continue to do so until The Lord returns – for a very specific reason: “if we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves …” 

Deception is all around us especially in doctrinal matters, but it is not the Church that is deliberately trying to deceive the faithful and the not-so-faithful.  Rather it is our misunderstanding (or our willful ignorance) of the Scriptures and our insistence that forgiveness by the heart of The Lord is a one-and-done deal; that once He wipes our sins away, they are gone for good.  While this is true of those past transgressions, it is hard to justify a belief that this forgiveness extends to those sins we will certainly commit later.  We are, after all, very fully human, so we struggle between the Spirit and the flesh constantly and very often lose that battle.  We should also bear in mind that if we have transgressed against those we love and have been forgiven for our past, hurting them again means we have to come clean all over again and ask for forgiveness again – that is, if we care to be forgiven or if we care that we have truly hurt them.

Sin hurts our Lord, and intentional sin angers The Lord; but the sins we commit in our day-to-day encounters with our neighbors, our friends, and with strangers while claiming to be somehow “covered” by a single confession made long ago means “we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us”.  Worse than this perhaps is going from day to day with very little thought as to how we may intentionally serve The Lord, with virtually no thought or acknowledgment of His presence in our daily living.  We simply take His mercy for granted to the point of abusing His mercy, denying His Word, and convincing ourselves that “we have no sin”. 

If we understand “sacrament” as The Lord’s giving of Himself so freely, we see The Lord’s hand in virtually every facet of our lives.  Even the sacrament of “confession” has been thought through more carefully so as to understand the depth of the “sacrament” which involves much more than simply “confessing”.  Confessing is what we do, but the full sacrament of “reconciliation” is a Divine Act.  It is what The Lord does when we confess: “He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

If we would stop deceiving ourselves – or allowing ourselves to be deceived by the “father of lies” – we can finally admit that yesterday alone was filled with sin whether by the acts we deliberately committed, the cross words or thoughts we spoke against others, or the omission of mercy we denied someone by “minding our own business”. 

You nor I would stand long for someone who would constantly take us for granted.  How have we reached such a point at which we claim to “love” The Lord but take Him and His mercy for granted by refusing to pray, refusing to confess, and refusing to stand before Him by the judgment we proclaim against ourselves?  Why would it never occur to us that “reconciliation” is much more than a single act?  Just as we know neglecting our human relationships will adversely affect those relationships, so can we also neglect the Divine relationship we have with The Lord and with one another!

Is it “just” that The Lord would somehow automatically forgive or even overlook our sins without our having spoken a word to Him?  NO!  The “justice” in accordance with the Written Word is the fulfillment of His promise to forgive those who search for Him with their “whole heart”. 

Confession is never easy nor is it meant to be.  It is not about bearing in mind a single act; it is entirely about recognizing a less-than-pleasing pattern of living that denies the Eternal Presence assured in our baptism.  The Lord is clearly faithful.  Pray that we can be as faithful.



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