Our Lord speaks through His prophet Ezekiel saying, “The soul who sins shall die. The son shall not suffer for the iniquity of the father, nor the father suffer for the iniquity of the son. The righteousness of the righteous shall be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon himself.” As is given in the Scriptures, so we are given to confess in the Church. The Scriptures are that deep well of salvation from which all of our confession is drawn. Why then, if this Scripture declares that the son shall not suffer for the iniquity of the father, nor the father for the son, do we have such watered down confessions in our Divine Services, at least in the Lutheran Service Book Divine Services I, II, IV, and as an option in V? Why do we say, “Most merciful God, we confess that we are by nature sinful and unclean. We have sinned against You in thought, word, and deed, by what we have done and by what we have left undone. We have not loved You with our whole heart; we have not loved our neighbors as ourselves. We justly deserve Your present and eternal punishment. For the sake of Your Son, Jesus Christ, have mercy on us. Forgive us, renew us, and lead us, so that we may delight in Your will and walk in Your ways to the glory of Your holy name. Amen” Why do we have such a watered down, let’s all confess to making some mistakes this past week, confessions of our sin. We cannot bear the sins of our neighbor, as St. Paul says in Galatians 6, “For each will have to bear his own load.” (Galatians 6:5). The only one that can bear our sins is Christ, (john 1:29), not one else. No single person can confess our sins for us, and in addition to this, no one can receive the forgiveness of sins on our behalf. We confess our own sins, we receive personal absolution from our Lord Christ. Why then does the Church, the unblemished, spotless, pure Bride of Christ, continue to confess such diluted and anti biblical confessions?
It is the answer to every question about why the Church does what she does. It is because of sin. It is because of that Old Adam that doesn’t think he’s that bad of a guy, at least not as bad or worse than the fellow sitting a few pew ahead of him on Sunday morning. The Church doesn’t want to hear that law that says, “You have no other options. You have not only made mistakes this week, but you have acted in unbelief toward God and fervent hatred toward your neighbor. You are not a good person, but a sinner who needs Christ. Sure, you don’t shoot people in the head, but you care about yourself more than the physical needs of your neighbor. Sure, you haven’t gone and slept with that new Administrative assistant at work, but your fingers have secretly tickled your laptop for other women that Christ has not given you to love and honor.” Repent, says the Law to you. You can’t hear the law for your neighbor nor can your neighbor hear the law for you. Why? Because you both struggle with different sins and have different ways in which the devil tempts you. You have different failures and different burdens. You both sin, but you both have mastered the art in diverse ways. Therefore you cannot confess your neighbor’s sins to God because they are not yours to confess. When the law kills you you don’t have the option to confess your neighbor’s sins, but only to lay there and receive the mercy of your Savior. When you water down that confession, you adulterate the absolution that Christ freely gives. Weaken the sin and you thin the Savior’s blood that flows over you.
Because the Church has weakened her confession of her sin, so the world goes with her. We would like to believe that we are just crumbling to the pressures of this world and that is the reason why we have such silly confessions of our sin. However, what is the biggest charge against the Church is her hypocrisy. Whenever the Church is accused of hypocrisy, she immediately says, “No. I’m a sinner just like anybody else.” What ridiculous filth. This is not the confession of a Saint, but the politicking of a gouty unbeliever. The Saint confesses, “Yes, indeed. I am a hypocrite. I hate you for accusing me of being a hypocrite. Forgive me, for that is my only solution to the absolute problem of my hypocrisy.” When the Church weakens her confession, she weakens the worlds perception of it’s depravity. Because the Church eliminates sin, dilutes her confession, the world goes along and sees itself as the savior of mankind. The Secular Humanists and New Atheists don’t see a church that is confessing her depravity, but instead a church that mumbles the little hiccups she’s had this past week. What a weak Savior we present to the world because of our scrawny confession of sin.
So what should we do. Let us hear the rest of Ezekiel’s words that say, “But if a wicked person turns away from all his sins that he has committed and keeps all my statutes and does what is just and right, he shall surely live; he shall not die. 22 None of the transgressions that he has committed shall be remembered against him; for the righteousness that he has done he shall live. 23 Have I any pleasure in the death of the wicked, declares the Lord God, and not rather that he should turn from his way and live?” (Ezekiel 18:21-23). Let us preach the Law and the Gospel to every individual sinner. Let every sinner hear the Law and die and receive the Gospel that gives life. Should we have corporate confession and absolution in the Service. Sure, why not. However, it must not overshadow the sinner personal confession of sin and personal reception of absolution. This is what corporate confession and absolution has done. Because we do not verbalize our sin, we do not hear personal absolution. Because of this, we have diluted our confession of sin and made absolution nothing but a generic hallmark greeting card from Christ. Yes, all your sin is forgiven, but I have no clue what that sin is says the pastor. Confess big sins because Jesus offers even bigger absolution. Let we the Church do this and preach to the world around us the same message. Though your sin be great, Jesus is a greater savior.