As we meditate on the Lord’s Prayer and think about “forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive our trespassers”, we must also think about confession.
There are stories of young Martin Luther confessing his sins for hours on end, then leaving his confessor, and then immediately returning, realizing he left out something and fearing the consequences. This was unhealthy. At the time, Luther understood the gravity of sin, but he failed to understand the power of grace and the totality of Christ’s forgiveness.
There is an important balance of continually confessing our sins and continually understanding that our sins (past, present, and future) are already forgiven, once we have confessed our perpetual human nature to sin. This is understandable as we know that God lives beyond the restrictions of time.
Now, what does this mean for how we should go about confessing our transgressions to one another?
Perhaps the good and right tension can be seen in the two renditions of the Lord’s Prayer in Scripture. One says “as we forgive others” (Luke 11:2-4) and the other says “as we have forgiven others” (Matthew 6:9-13). As Christ followers we should have forgiveness so ingrained in us that before we need to forgive others, we are ready and willing to forgive. What an attribute to aspire to! How might our reputation as Christ followers be changed in the world if we truly strived to live this out?
So, we continually confess our sins to God, while continually working to bring about the Kingdom of God through a lifestyle of confession and forgiveness. We have no fear of our transgressions, knowing that Christ has forgiven and Christ will forgive. And so should we.