Confession of Sin (Part One)

Read this article before continuing.

Who’s sins are we supposed to confess? What is confession? How often should we confess? These and many other questions come to my mind when I read articles and comments like those above. Here is a brief excerpt to get discussion going today.

Representatives from the 34 U.S.-based churches in the WCC [World Council of Churches] apologized to other nations for the U.S.-led war in Iraq. In fact, that group issued a letter — written in the form of a penitential rite — asking God’s forgiveness for America’s war-related policies and charging the Bush administration with grave sins against the environment and the poor.

IRD interim president Alan Wisdom says while confession of sin is “a duty” for all Christians, “it is our own sins that we should confess — not the sins for which we wish to fault our political opponents.”

Wisdom asserts the penitence expressed by the denominations’ representatives is false. “These church leaders are not confessing their own sins; they are trying to confess the sins of George W. Bush, who never asked them to perform that service for him,” he says. “Nor did the members of their own churches ask them to make this kind of statement on their behalf.” The IRD leader calls the letter a “blatant political abuse of the sacred Christian rite of confession.”

Now, let’s look at some Scripture on the matter.

In Nehemiah 9, the people confess their sin. But, ya wanna know something? They don’t only confess their own sin. They confess the sins of their fathers. They say,

But our ancestors acted arrogantly; they became stiff-necked and did not listen to Your commands…But they were disobedient and rebelled against You. They flung Your law behind their backs and killed Your prophets who warned them to turn them back to You. They committed terrible blasphemies…So now, our God— the great, mighty, and awe-inspiring God who keeps His gracious covenant — do not view lightly all the hardships that have afflicted us, our kings and leaders, our priests and prophets, our ancestors and all Your people, from the days of the Assyrian kings until today. You are righteous concerning all that has come on us, because You have acted faithfully, while we have acted wickedly. Our kings, leaders, priests, and ancestors did not obey Your law or listen to Your commandments and warnings You gave them. When they were in their kingdom, with Your abundant goodness You gave them, and in the spacious and fertile land You set before them, they would not serve You or turn from their wicked ways. (Nehmiah 9:16, 26, 32-35 HCSB Emphasis mine)

I want us to notice something in this passage. As the people are confessing their sin, they make sure and confess the sins of their “kings, leaders, priests. and ancestors”. Interesting. According to Alan Wisdom, though,

…it is our own sins that we should confess — not the sins for which we wish to fault our political opponents.

But is the World Council of Churches “fault[ing their] political oponents” or are they confessing what they believe to be sins that have been committed by American forces in the war on terror via our “war-related policies”? I choose to think it is the latter.

In coming days, we will discuss the issue of confession of sin. I would ask that all of us have open hearts and open minds and be willing to let God teach us what He wills.

To be continued…

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