“For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Romans 3:23
While many of us are blind to our sinful attitudes, others experience a weight of guilt they can never release. Martin Luther would confess his sins for hours, beating himself to bring his flesh under control. His confessor is reported to have sent him away saying, “Martin… Go out and kill someone… Then come back and confess… when you have something to confess!” It took the revelation of the power of God’s grace through faith to release Luther from his bondage.
12 For all who have sinned without the law will also perish without the law, and all who have sinned under the law will be judged by the law.13 For it is not the hearers of the law who are righteous before God, but the doers of the law who will be justified. 14 For when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do what the law requires, they are a law to themselves, even though they do not have the law. 15 They show that the work of the law is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness, and their conflicting thoughts accuse or even excuse them 16 on that day when, according to my gospel, God judges the secrets of men by Christ Jesus.
24 “Very truly I tell you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be judged but has crossed over from death to life. 25 Very truly I tell you, a time is coming and has now come when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God and those who hear will live. 26 For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son also to have life in himself. 27 And he has given him authority to judge because he is the Son of Man.28 “Do not be amazed at this, for a time is coming when all who are in their graves will hear his voice 29 and come out—those who have done what is good will rise to live, and those who have done what is evil will rise to be condemned.
One summer we were caring for our two grandchildren while their parents were on a much needed vacation. Daily chores proved to be my undoing as I continued to repeat the expectations endlessly, to no effect. At one point I lost my temper when they began pulling items out of the recycling bin that I had discarded. One child walked away, ignoring my rebuff; the other child quietly began to cry. She had spotted an accessory for one of her stuffed animals in the bin. To me it had looked like garbage; for her it was a treasure. “Why didn’t you tell me,” I asked. “Because I was afraid you would spank me,” she sighed as tears streaked her cheeks. “I would never lay a finger on you. I just wanted you to listen to me,” I replied as I held her close and asked for her forgiveness. It is interesting to note, that the other child, the one who provoked the anger, didn’t even notice that he had been threatened. No apology needed.
We all have a different tolerance for sin. Some have very tender consciences that need no reminders. They are fully capable of pointing out every offense, no matter how small. They need reassurance that God forgives them, even though they feel unworthy. For those with robust personalities, it may take much more to provoke a confession. Those individuals may experience the fire of unexpected consequences before they wake up to their need for forgiveness and conversion.
Regardless of your personality, we have the assurance that if we confess our sins, God is faithful and will forgive. We learn to leave it with him and start fresh each day. He gives forgiveness and eternal life. No one is righteous apart from him, whether or not we have a tender conscience.
Lord, we all sin and fall short of your perfection. Thank you that you are always ready to forgive, whether our sins are few or many. We are ashamed to keep coming back with repeated offenses; help us to surrender them to you and accept your grace. Amen.