Repenting, Another Installment
Last month’s list of what flows from Christ’s forgiveness and absolution included the freedom to reconcile with our brothers and sisters. We confess our sins to them; we acknowledge our own sinfulness and how it harmed or offended them. We ask for their forgiveness, knowing that in and through Christ we are reconciled to each other as forgiven sinners – with Him in the absolution, and so with each other. Only in acknowledging our common need for His unmerited redeeming work for us will there be absolution and true reconciliation.
Jesus was serious about the battle for reconciliation with our brother, i.e., our fellow Christians. From His Sermon on the Mount:
23 So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, 24 leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.
(Matthew 5:23-24, ESV)
This, then, is His purpose; reconciliation within the Body of Christ.
As we go into the world around us, however, the relationship becomes different. The Law drives us to contrition and repentance before God as we hear the Law preached in God’s Word; the Gospel then comforts and gives us what it declares – the forgiveness of sins, life and salvation. We also ask that the Holy Spirit will drive our neighbor to contrition before God through the Word of the Law, that they also acknowledge their sinfulness, so that the same Spirit, through the Word of Christ’s forgiveness, might bestow the blessings of faith in our neighbor.
We still repent of sins against our neighbor before God. Yet the world often redefines the Law and “sin,” and then judges apart from God’s truth. Confession and repentance before the world for sins that are not properly sins turns the world into a god. We give power to the world that it doesn’t really have. We give shallow, false displays of virtue to establish our standing before the world. When that happens, we receive a false “glory,” God is not glorified, and our neighbor remains in sin. There are situations in which we must stand in God’s truth rather than make a false repentance. We do this for the benefit of our neighbor.
- Pastor Tim