"Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed."

Friday, February 18, 2011

Girl Meets God -- Resurrection and Confession (Forgiveness of Sin)

A bit more from Girl Meets God by Lauren Winner

There are other things from this book that took my attention - how she read the book of Ruth as an Orthodox Jew and now as a Christian and how the story of Obed plays into Matthew's telling of Jesus' genealogy in that gospel.  I reread that part to grasp it all. Really good. But I won't copy it all.  Anyone interested can get the book perhaps.

I like how she said she chose Episcopalianism because she liked the liturgy and Tradition and reading the Scriptures through the eyes of the Church. She said this was familiar to her because Jews read the Torah and Writings and Prophets the same way. Jews reading the Bible without the rabbis were "heretics of the first order." (pg.137)

I wanted to share how one girl in the five-and-six-year-old class she taught described communion. How that it was God that the priest poured into the cup. (pg.185)

But I will instead choose two things, resurrection and confession, and leave it at that.

"Judaism taught me daily to expect God to resurrect the dead.  True enough, over the centuries the rabbis have debated the details of Jewish afterlife, but it boils down to what you say every day in prayer. ... [In] the middle of Shemoneh Esrei ... is that God 'heals the sick' and 'releases the prisoner' and is 'faithful to raise the dead.'

Easter, it seems to me, is the most profoundly Jewish of all Christian holidays. For a Jew becoming a Christian, bodily resurrection is no surprise.  It is what we had been expecting all along."  (pg. 193)

And concerning confession.

"Father Peter will grant me absolution, but confession isn't just about absolution. It's not some kind of antinomian free-for-all, where, since we know Christ has already forgiven us, we can just keep sinning. The change, I think, that conversion gradually effects on your heart is this: you come, over some stretched-out time, to want to do the things that God wants you to do, because you want to be close to Him. So the point is not just to be forgiven, it is to be transformed.  The religious languages have better words for this than English -- teshuvah in Hebrew, and metanoia in Greek. A complete turning around.

I doubt I will achieve a complete turn around here on Earth. I will always need this ritual of confession, because I will always keep screwing up.  And God will somehow keep forgiving me, and pulling me closer to Him. He will, over time, make me sadder and sadder when I spit in His eye.  He will make me love Him better. And that might mean, maybe, that I will sin a little bit less."  (pg. 212-213)

I like her thoughts on confession and how she explained that one who is drawing closer to God won't want to sin or "spit in His eye."  Would you want to spit in your loving mother or father's eye? I get the impression from some that once we know Jesus, we can go on sinning and just say the magic words and he will take away the consequences of our sinful behaviors so good behavior is optional for Christians. Not so. If you really love Jesus, you won't take God's forgiveness lightly.  You will recognize those bad deeds hurt Jesus as much as your cheating on your husband would crush him.  And if you love your husband, you won't want to hurt him. You won't want to destroy him this way. So why would you love Jesus and then purposefully hurt him? 

Any thoughts or comments or impressions that you want to share?  Was it a surprise to you to learn Jews also expect God to be "faithful to raise the dead"?  What do you think of Lauren's impression that Easter is "the most profoundly Jewish of all Christian holidays"? Would you have guessed this?  What do you think of confession to a priest?  Why is this important or not important to you?  How is being sorry for your sin different from "a complete turning around" concerning them? Or are they the same?


Amber said...

I have trouble, personally, with confession. Not with the concept, or the necessity of it, but the actual getting there and doing it. (Leaving aside the fact that I'm 'between Churches' right now and can't go confess in either one...)

My thoughts on why are this: we, as a society, as a culture have gotten it into our heads that almost anything is okay, as long as we don't get caught. People commit horrible crimes and live perfectly normal lives for years and it's fine, for them, because no one knows that they've done it. We *hide* our sins, our shame. And as long as we do a good job hiding it, there's no crime.

Confession asks us to go against that. To not only admit that we've done wrong to ourselves, but to another person, to God. The priest in confession is acting as an advisor, there to guide us, to tell us what we can do to get back on the right path. He must hear our sins for that, though he can never speak of them to another living soul at the danger of his own. But for those who believe, the worst part is admitting what we've done to God. We know, in the back of our minds, that He already knows. That He knew we were going to falter before we did it. But *admitting* to it. Taking responsibility for it and asking for help, for forgiveness makes it all so very real.

Susanne said...

Amber, I appreciate what you said and it makes so much sense. I have been thinking the last few months how I really don't confess sins to God...much less a priest. I never saw the need for the latter based on how I was raised, but I have come to see some goodness in it. I mean confessing to a priest after meeting you and also after reading Lauren's book. I've always thought you could just go straight to God and a priest was unnecessary. Maybe because I thought he was the forgiver of sin when in reality, he guides someone. Oh, maybe I am all wrong on this. I do remember the book of James says to confess our sins to one another (James 5:16), yet I've never been encouraged to do this. It's more like I can just ask forgiveness straight from God.

Hmmm, I'm puzzling over all this stuff. I really appreciate what you shared and I apologize for rambling as I seek to sort it in my own mind.

Amber said...


I've noticed that there's not a whole lot of confessing to God going on in a lot of Christian churches. People seem to have the idea that, like you mentioned, they say the magic words and nothing that they do 'counts' as wrong any more. It's all covered. It just doesn't work that way. But they think it does, and so they don't focus on their sins, minor or major. They assume God's forgiveness, which is always there. But we're meant to be co-workers in our own salvation. Is our contribution a tiny drop in comparison to God's? Yes. But that doesn't matter. Salvation is participatory.

IMHO, the confusion over it being confession to a priest, or to God, comes from the power given to the Apostles, to bind or loose on earth and the fact that God will 'support' their actions by binding or loosing in Heaven these same things. It's easy to misunderstand that and take it to mean that the priest is saving or damning a person based on their confession. And that's not what's happening. The person confesses to God, who is the only one who can truly forgive or condemn. The priest, as I said, is there to guide. To give advice. But they have another, related responsibility. As a confessor, the priest is given insight, by God, into the penitent. False repentance, false humility are dangerous. They can lead a person to believe that they are forgiven when they are not. Because God only forgives when we are sincere. Sure, we'll make the same mistakes over and over again, in varying shades and permutations. But each time we do, if we can lower ourselves, take ourselves away from our ego and admit that we need help, if we can follow the advise given and remain strong we can get better. Salvation is not an instant thing. You have to work at it for your entire life. The priest, with the grace and understanding given to him by God, for this purpose, can see when a person is truly repentant. When they truly desire to expiate their sins and redress the balance. Or when they don't. And he will forgive or not, based on that. Those who remain unforgiven do so for their own good. To show them that they remain in error, and need to sincerely seek God's forgiveness.

I apologise if any of that is confusing. I'm trying to explain it as well as I can...

Susanne said...


Thank you for explaining all that. I need to soak it in. I appreciate your taking time to explain.

Lat said...

"..is that God 'heals the sick' and 'releases the prisoner' and is 'faithful to raise the dead.' "

faithful meaning keeping the promise to raise the dead? As far as I've read,Judaism doesn't talk about an afterlife like in Islam and when I checked a few sites,they said that it was a later invention.So assuming that's true (no afterlife,)what does raising the dead mean? If we assume there's an afterlife,then why isn't much written on it?

Confession(like as you said to a priest) sounds like going to a doctor,counsellor or psychiatrist to get ourselves cured of our mental stress or whatever that ails us.it's the choice of the person who wants to confess or not.There's no guarantee that God will forgive someone only when he confesses to someone else or like you said God has already forgiven that person prior to his confession.Experiences also makes people question the things they do and some change accordingly so that they do not hurt themselves and others.

Susanne said...

Lat, I wish now that I had more background on what the Jews believe about God being faithful to raise the dead. All Lauren said was that there was much rabbinical discussion re: the afterlife, but I don't know what the majority think. I guess I was a bit surprised to see this Jewish prayer mentioned some form of resurrection!

Interesting thoughts on confession. Christians do believe God forgives those sins based on passages in the Bible.

Enjoyed your thoughts! Thank you!

Becky said...

I love the quotes here, concerning needing to "work" on your salvation - to continuously strive towards getting better, because of the love of God. If only more Christians would follow that.