If We Confess . . .
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
~ 1 John 1:9
The promise of forgiveness made in 1 John is one of the most powerful and comforting verses in the Bible. We know we sin. Sometimes, we know exactly what we have done wrong; and, I suspect, often we do not even know exactly what we have done wrong, but when we read the life of Jesus, or one of the Epistles, we get the unmistakable impression that there is a lot we are not doing right. Sometimes we are eaten up by guilt and remorse; sometimes we rationalize our conduct; sometimes we simply ignore it.
But in every case, God knows what we have done and will forgive us, if we only ask! He does not expect us to be perfect, like Christ, for that is not possible. He does expect us to try, and our attempts to stay on the “straight and narrow” are important, for time after time after time, the Bible tells us to stop sinning. We show our love for God and our fellow humans by the attempt. Yet, again, we know that no matter how saintly we become, sin will be with us until we die.
There is an awfully big “if” involved here, however: “If we confess our sins . . . .” And do not think that this matter of confessing is a one-time deal. On this point, the Greek is much clearer than the English, because the tense used in Greek clearly and definitively describes a continual, ongoing process. There are no two ways to read John’s text, no ambiguity. We must confess repeatedly and continually.
The justification that brings us eternal life, and the constant regeneration in newness of life that confession and forgiveness brings, do not remove our need to work against the subjective reality of sin in our daily lives. If we do not confess continually, we face either destructive guilt, on the one hand, or denial of our wrongdoing, on the other. And either of these will drive us away from God.
The price of forgiveness has been paid in full; all we need to do is ask for it. It is one of the few places in Christian doctrine where we have to make an affirmative effort to secure our salvation, for to confess our sin, we must search it out.
Lord, lead me to know my sin, that I might confess it and enjoy the great blessing of forgiveness. Amen.
~ Mason Barge
Editor, Daily Prayer