Sjolander Road Fellowship

Declaring the God of Unconditional Love

confession and forgiveness



Most Christians see a connection between confession and forgiveness. I John 1:9 is often quoted in this regard- If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. The basic notion is that in order to be forgiven for our sins we have to admit them to God. Forgiveness involves God changing His demand for retribution against the forgiven one. It is an act of God's Will which changes how He views the sinner. This change in God's Mind allows Him to relinquish His need for justice and provide the avenue by which He can overlook our malfeasance. 


It strikes me that there is an entirely different way to view the act of confession and the resulting forgiveness. For one, confession can easily be seen as the act of admitting to ourselves how we are thinking and behaving poorly, not in the sense of offending God, but rather in terms of adversely affecting our own happiness. Confession then becomes the practice of self evaluation and transformation. Confession does not apprise God of our sins and shortcomings; He knows them better than we do. Instead confession is a personal act of re-appraisal which positions our minds and hearts to embrace dramatic change.


There is an accompanying different view of God's forgiveness which derives from this personal re-evaluation. It is a form of forgiveness which is closely allied with the message and mission of Jesus, but not in the sense of Jesus appeasing God and diverting His righteous wrath. Instead forgiveness involves God through Christ providing the understanding of ourselves and God's immense regard for us, which then allows us to relinquish the feelings of fear, guilt, and inadequacy which plague every man. Forgiveness, therefore, takes place in our own mind and not God's. God, in granting forgiveness in Christ, simply made a way for us to change our opinion of ourselves and by extension of our fellowmen. This change in perception, this new enlightenment, creates a new reality/creation for the one affected. It generates a re-birth, a resurrection from dead thinking, a freedom from crushing fear and guiltiness. It is forgiveness in the ultimate sense, the kind that truly renews from the inside out.


If as the church contends, God's forgiveness is necessary to escape His wrath, then confession becomes a work by which we gain His acceptance and approval. It is a ritual performed to gain and maintain divine favor. It becomes a source of piety and the inevitable feeling of personal accomplishment. It is one more way we puff up and feel superior to others, providing an excuse to ostracize, marginalize, and segregate.


A different, more powerful and ennobling view of forgiveness, necessitates seeing man's problem as not one of gaining God's acceptance. We cannot logically be rejected by God because of the way He made us, because our creation as independent beings made our mistakes inevitable. God cannot be upset and hell bent on retribution because of what He knew would happen and did nothing to prevent. To believe that forgiveness, in the NT sense, involves changing God's view of man is an implied indictment of His very nature. That just cannot be true and God remain the Supreme One and the rightful object of our adoration.