Rev. Brady Finnern
Forgiveness in Christ is the call of the church. After the resurrection, Jesus tells the church to preach "repentance and forgiveness of sins" (Luke 24) and "if you forgive them they are forgiven" (John 20). This call is defined as the "Office of the Keys" which Christ has given to the church-the special authority to forgive sinners like you and me.
This gift of forgiveness is to be given by your pastor. He is called by the congregation to exercise this Office of the Keys for the sake of your spiritual wellbeing and so that we will be given a good conscience that allows you to stand before our LORD in love without fear.
In seminary, one of the professors would tell us, "Gentleman, you are called to be Absolution Man-forgiving the sins of sinners and saving the lost by His power." When you are absolved by your pastor, not only is it good to hear, but you are actually receiving forgiveness in Christ.
This gift of forgiveness in Christ is also to be given by you in your daily vocations. Each day friends and acquaintances will confess major and minor indiscretions to you (gossip, overreaction to other people's words and behavior, guilt over their past, and so on). But, as we all know from experience, our usual response is very weak. We will say things like, "Don't worry about it" or "It's all water under the bridge" and "Everyone has done something like that at some point." We often do this to try to help ease their consciences. And even though these replies sound good at first, they provide no real comfort, and hence it's hard to move on.
So why not use the words of Christ? Instead of, "Water under the bridge" say, "In Christ, you are forgiven" or "Jesus forgives you." Your friends might be shocked by it. Give it a try anyway. When these words are said by you, a baptized child of God, not only is it good to hear, but your friends are actually receiving forgiveness in Christ.
Take me, for example. I am husband and a father of four children. Each night as I reflect on my day, I realize how much I have failed and sinned against my family; the rest of my family realizes that they have failed as well. So we have started a tradition of ending our day in Christ's forgiveness. When I tuck the kids into bed, I place my hand on their heads and bless them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Then the last words they hear before they go to bed are, "In Christ, you are forgiven." One night my daughter, after I announced Christ's forgiveness to her, and when she realized that I was feeling particularly guilty, placed her hand on my head, made the sign of the cross and said, "Daddy, in Christ you are forgiven!" Not only was it good to hear, but I was actually receiving forgiveness in Christ. Thanks be to God!
Rev. Brady Finnern is pastor at Messiah Lutheran Church, Sartell, MN.
Created: October 17th, 2015