Not that bad?

After worship, a member of the congregation said to me, “I couldn’t say the confession today. I don’t do any of those things. I’d be lying.”

Yes, that got my attention. I wasn’t sure what to say at that moment, don’t remember what I did say but know I wisely said little. I did go back to see what we had corporately confessed at the beginning of the service.

The confession that day was taken from the rite of individual confession and absolution. We said things like

“I have lived as if God did not matter and if I mattered most…my Lord’s name I have not honored as I should…my┬álove for others has failed…there are those whom I have hurt…my thoughts and desires have been soiled with sin.” (Lutheran Service Book, p. 292)

Those words pretty much summed up my life that week. I read those words and think, “Guilty as charged.” But not this person. He sounded just like the wealthy young man who assured Jesus that he had kept all the commandments. Afterwards, I realized I could have told him to sell his possessions, give to the poor and follow Jesus, but that probably wouldn’t have gone over well.

So what was really going on here? Have I been preaching too much gospel and not enough law? Did he really not get it? Or were his failings in other areas than these that we mentioned?

I don’t know. It just caught me off guard. I’ve only ever had one other person object to the words of confession, insisting that they were not “a poor, miserable sinner.” They just didn’t think they were that bad. An average sinner, maybe. But not miserable.

crucifixion-of-jesus-christWe can all use a little more Christ and him crucified. The horrific reality of Jesus’ suffering and death usually makes me marvel, “I’m that bad? I’m that loved? It’s all taken care of? Really?” Then the absolution really hits home when God says, “Yes!”