From The Word for Every Day, by Alvin Rogness, page 63, © 1981 Augsburg Publishing House
Let me say at the outset that I don’t always feel the need to be forgiven. I believe I need to be; I know I do, because the Scriptures say very clearly that I do. But what do I need to be forgiven for? Like the rich young ruler, I have obeyed the commandments. I have not murdered or committed adultery. I’m not a thief, not even a minor shoplifter. I’ve tried to be honest with IRS. I may have stretched or withheld the truth at times, usually to avoid hurting someone’s feelings. What’s so terrible about a little lie? Certainly not terrible enough to drive Jesus to a cross for my sins.
If I want to understand myself, and if I want to understand Christ’s love for me, I am told that I must find myself in the corner of bad people who need, more than anything else, the forgiveness of sins. The question haunts me. Is there in me, and in all people, some evil so subtle and pervasive and destructive (like a hidden cancer) that unless it is dealt with, any progress toward spiritual health (honesty, joy, love, hope) will be an illusion? And does it take a therapy so radical that only the death of Jesus will do? Our Christian faith says that it cost him a cross.
You may be initially drawn to Jesus by his miracles of mercy, by his penetrating parables, by his indignation against sham and oppression. Before long, as Jesus grows upon you, and you stand watching him die, you will know a strange uneasiness. You don’t belong in the same company with him. Like Peter, you’ll feel like crying out, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord.” Somehow the yawning gap between you and Jesus will have to be bridged. Your most noble efforts won’t do it. The only bridge is repentance and confession, and being caught in the tide of his forgiving love which sweeps all your sins away.
Forgiveness has tended to slip out of the vocabulary of secular man. If we believe that there is no God at the center to be accountable to and that the universe is but a vast machine, forgiveness is meaningless. If man is but a cog in the machine, driven by his appetite and his chemistry, forgiveness is nonsense. If we are but helpless pieces of some cosmic game, why ask us to repent and be forgiven? You don’t forgive a dog for stealing a bone, nor a tornado for leveling a village, nor a river for overflowing its banks. But we are created children of God, with holiness the expectation and demand, and as utter failures to meet the demand, there is no door but forgiveness for our return to God.
I John 1:8-10 — If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word has no place in our lives.
Matthew 9:2 — Some men brought to (Jesus) a paralytic, lying on a mat. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Take heart, son; your sins are forgiven.”
Romans 5:6-8 — You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
Acts 13:38 — Therefore, my brothers, I want you to know that through Jesus the forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you.
CONFESSION OF SIN from the LUTHERAN LITURGY OF WURTTEMBERG, 1536