Forgiveness and Confession

I guess I’m a little bit old-fashioned (nothing wrong with that) as I like a lot of the old traditional hymns. They usually have lyrics with good theology and deep meaning, as well as interesting back stories. It’s also amusing that some of them use the music from drinking songs since many people singing them would already know the tunes.

I have no objection to contemporary worship songs until the theology veers off course (or phrases are repeated until they become mantras), as in the one we sang at church the other day. I was unfamiliar with it and don’t know the name, but one of the lines asked God to forgive us (the congregation or church, not sure which) for losing sight of the awesomeness of God (I think). I was distracted by the plea for forgiveness.

Before you get excited, let me explain why this bothered me, or rather, let Steve McVey, Trinitarian theologian, author and speaker, explain: “To confess my sin doesn’t mean I’m asking for forgiveness. Somebody’s going to mention 1 John 1:9, that’s what always pops out. That’s not to say I won’t confess, I won’t admit. ‘Confess’ means to agree, to say the same. I’m going to acknowledge it when I’ve sinned, but I don’t do it to get forgiveness, I do it because I’ve already gotten forgiveness. There’s a big difference between the two.

“1 John 1:9, if I can give an amplified explanation or paraphrase, might read like this: Since it’s the nature of the believer to constantly admit it when we’ve sinned, so is it the nature of God to constantly relate to us from a posture of forgiveness, keeping us cleansed of all unrighteousness. My part is that I admit it. What else am I going to do, lie? He knows. His part is to keep me in that state of constant forgiveness because of the work of the cross. What else is he going to do? It’s finished” (From an interview in Trinitarian Conversations Volume 2: Interviews with More Theologians (You’re Included), published by Grace Communion International).

As I like to say (and say often) on this blog, the words we use when talking about God are important. By using certain words and phrases, we can easily misrepresent him and who he is. Understanding that we don’t have to always beg and plead for forgiveness acknowledges the finished work of the cross and helps us live in the reality of his goodness.