Read Christian hip hop artist FLAME’s powerful first experience with Confession and Absolution and the comfort it provides. The following has been adapted from Extra Nos: Discovering Grace outside Myself.
How Different Denominations View Confession and Absolution
I’d heard of Confession before, but Absolution wasn’t a normal term used in the Reformed or generic American Evangelical space. It’s normally associated with Roman Catholics. By and large, most of the Reformed persons I knew didn’t pay much attention to Rome or speak of their brotherhood in a favorable way, unfortunately. For that reason, the very notion of Absolution is frowned upon.
I was learning that Lutherans did not practice Absolution in the same manner as Rome. There was no penance or extra practices to perform to assist in repentance. Yet the Lutherans were keen on preserving Absolution based on Scripture. I noticed the major difference while actually experiencing it myself. One of my minors was in counseling. We were given an assignment to actually see a counselor on staff at the seminary. At first, I was a bit put off by the idea, but I quickly resolved that it couldn’t hurt.
Absolution: The Power of Forgiveness
The counselor and I met together for about four sessions, and things evolved relatively quickly due to how well our personalities worked together. While in one of the sessions, I was able to open up and confess my sin to a trained pastoral counselor. As we were ending the session, the counselor asked me if he could absolve me. I told him I was only familiar with the concept vaguely but was open to it. He asked if I would mind removing my hat. I said, “Not at all.”
He then placed his hand on my head, stated my full name, and said something akin to,
“In the place and by the command of Jesus Christ, my Lord, I forgive you all your sins in the name of the Father, the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.”
After that experience, I nearly wept. It was such a personal and impactful one. To have the forgiveness of sin pronounced over me in this unique way was indeed divine. I left the office in full confidence and assurance of the Lord’s forgiveness.
As mentioned, confession of sin is commonplace among many believers. Yet most accountability groups are a time for sharing hard things with one another, followed by encouragement and some form of the Law given to try harder next time mixed with some practical steps toward detecting triggers and preventive measures. These are all good and right things. However, most people leave without the biblical comfort of Absolution. It’s crucial that one hears the Absolution of the Lord by the one in His stead. Not only does this bring forgiveness but it also reminds us that we are not saved by our performance or level of personal piety but by Jesus and His merits alone.
How does Confession and Absolution take place?
Confession and Absolution takes place privately but also corporately. As the saints gather for Divine Service, immediately upon entrance, parishioners participate in Confession and Absolution. Out loud, they confess that they are sinners and have sinned. There’s even a quiet time for private confession unto the Lord. Then the pastor declares the forgiveness of sin over God’s children, and they are absolved. There is literal Gospel happening all throughout the Divine Service. From the moment of entrance to the moment of departure. There’s Confession and Absolution. The reading of God’s Word. The singing of God’s Word. The hearing of God’s preached Word. Both Law and Gospel. This culminates in the Lord’s Supper: the visible Word of God whereby Jesus is bodily present in the bread and wine. There’s prayer, the sign of the cross is made, and before everyone makes an exit, they are reminded again that their sins are forgiven.
Blog post adapted from Extra Nos: Discovering Grace outside Myself © 2023 Marcus “FLAME” Gray, published by Concordia Publishing House. All rights reserved.
To learn more about FLAME’s faith journey, check out his book, Extra Nos: Discovering Grace outside Myself.