Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for our sins to rescue us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen. (Galatians 1:4)
I sat yesterday, so filled with frustration, that I was unable to move or breathe for what felt like an anxiety ridden eternity. Nothing was going right with an editing program on my computer and I couldn’t get my usual tech support (aka, my husband) to respond to my texts. On top of this, I received messages from a friend that left me feeling scared and helpless, angrily wanting to “choke a mutha out”. I knew the only thing that could take my mind off of the situation was to get on with the work that I needed to do, but alas…. I was stuck. Unable to do anything about anything or even escape this realization.
Obviously, being the mature, godly woman that I am, I just began to offer beautiful prayers and was instantly filled with peace…
I cursed God out loud and just sat there, fuming in my anger.
Anger (while admittedly, not sinful by itself) is an emotion that bothers me more than any other, leaving me sick to my stomach because the feeling alone triggers terrible memories. I never really know what to do with anger, but when I sin with it, I feel the most condemnation and regret. It is in this place that I can quickly become the most discouraged in my faith.
Of course, breaking God’s law is upsetting to those of us who are in Christ. We have been given a new nature, one that is constantly at odds with the old Adam. “The thing that I do is the very thing that I hate”, type stuff. Like Paul, we want to be rescued from this body of death. From this flesh, that gets so angry at our helplessness the only creaturely card we feel that we have left to play is to curse God for that helplessness. Like Job’s wife, my flesh sort of taunts me: “Why don’t you curse God and die, already?”
“My sins are not imaginary transgressions, but sins against the first table, unbelief, doubt, despair, contempt, hatred, ignorance of God, ingratitude towards Him, misuse of His name, neglect of His Word, etc.’…. granted that I have not committed murder, adultery, theft, and similar sins in deed, nevertheless I have committed them in the heart, and therefore I am a transgressor of all the commandments of God.” – Luther, Commentary on Galatians
I let Mrs. Job’s words (with my adaptation) roll around in my head this morning with the words of Luther and as I wrestled, I began thinking about confession and absolution, about death and life. Hear me out, but I believe we can get to the gospel by tweaking those words a bit: “when you curse God, why don’t you confess your death already?”
Got real sins? Is your inability to cease them with your heart causing you despair? I’ve some good news from Galatians… Christ gave himself for our sins to rescue us. Those sins are all you need to qualify for rescue, they’ve been forgiven, so why don’t you confess your death already? Those who can muster up flowery responses when faced with frustrating circumstances or those who can bullshit their way through lofty prayers, instead of facing their anger honestly before God, do not believe they need any sort of help. I know this because it is how I lived my Christianity for well over a decade; it is my default setting. To the self-sufficient, clinging to their own life vests, swimming on their backs in a ridiculous circle, smiling at the sky and telling themselves they’re getting closer to shore, they’ve just got to kick a little while longer, I’ve nothing to offer.
But for those who’ve drowned (again) in helpless inability, lifelessly floating in the water, the gospel makes sense — “apart from someone rescuing me, I am sunk!” Here, you can no longer pretend that everything is okay nor are there any delusions left in your mind about cleverly getting your dead self to land, and so confession is for you. As Robert F. Capon says, “Confession is not a transaction, not a negotiation in order to secure forgiveness; it is the after-the-last grasp of a corpse that finally can afford to admit it’s dead and accept resurrection.”
So why don’t you confess your death already? Rest your weary conscience on the finished work of Christ, your Rescuer. Accept His grace and resurrection.
“Be assured that Christ has canceled the sins not of certain persons only, but your sins. Do not permit yourself to be robbed of this lovely conception of Christ. Christ is no Moses, no law-giver, no tyrant, but the Mediator for sins, the Giver of grace and life.” – Luther, Commentary on Galatians