Many churches throughout the world use a Bible reading schedule called a "lectionary." It's just a fancy word meaning "selected readings." Posts like this reflect on the readings for an upcoming Sunday or other Church holiday, as found in the historic one-year lectionary.
Historic Christian church services frequently begin with a confession of sin. In fairly general terms we confess that we are sinful, that we fail to do some good things, that we do some bad things, and that we don't love God or our neighbor perfectly. The majority of Christians around the world also have a custom of private confession, in which the individual comes to the priest or pastor and makes confession of sin, receiving forgiveness, or absolution.
What if we don't think we have anything to repent of? What if we are fairly pleased with the way our life is lived?
On one level that's good. Really. I know you thought that I, as someone who certainly confesses that we all have a sinful nature that we can't overcome by any of our efforts, would immediately condemn people who are pleased with their lives. Not at all. If your life is absent from glaring sin and offense, that's a good thing. You are likely to be respected in the community, your family, friends, co-workers, and employers or employees are probably going to find it easy to get along with you, and your life won't have the kind of troubles that some lives do. It's good.
It doesn't mean that you have nothing to confess, though. We all have something to confess before God, and in the presence of our confessor. Let's unpack just a couple of verses, Romans 12:9-10, to see how.
"Let love be genuine." Do I really do this? Or do I pretend that I love God and my neighbor. Have I ever been guilty of this? What if my enemies are in my face. Do I love them regardless? Or do I need God's forgiveness for my attitude toward some people and situations?
"Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good." Again, though I avoid a lot of evil things, do I really hate them, or do I secretly or publicly wink at them and excuse them. Am I concerned about the harm that evil practices can inflict on others? Even if I am safe from some of the evils that could kill me, am I bothered enough that those evils can kill? Considering drug use, physical abuse, poverty, and disease, am I willing to rescue others? Am I willing to work for good no matter what the consequences to me might be?
"Love one another with brotherly affection." Even the person I don't like? And what if my brother happens to be one of those people I don't like? Can I then dislike everyone else? No, maybe I'd better not make those concessions. I need to love others like I would love a brother who is very close to my heart. Even if it means doing something to help them.
"Outdo one another in showing honor." Even for those I don't respect? But . . . but . . . but . . .
We have plenty to confess. What's the good news in this passage? It is that Jesus is the one who forgives our sin. He shines his light on our lives and uses convicting words like these to confront us with our sin. But he is the forgiving Lord who has loved us as we are to love one another.
If this brief meditation was helpful to you, I hope you will check out the other materials on our website at www.WittenbergCoMo.com and consider supporting us.