At iWitness 2012 the theme was the Sacraments. Dr Robert Tilley (former Calvinist, hence the Calvinist/ Protestant references below) gave the talk on Reconciliation. It was a real cracker. Gonna relay my notes from it here, but you should really listen to it. This was the first time I’d heard him, and I was just spellbound.
Life is not trivial
The fact is, depending on our decisions, we are continually changing for better or for worse. We have the ability to become more or less truly ourselves. Most religions claim that what we do in this life affects profoundly what comes after. Why?
This life is like soil. Each of our lives, sow seeds, plant our next life. It either blooms or withers eternally. (1 Cor. 15:20-58) This implies that life is not trivial. On the contrary, it is very serious. The soul is most important, a perspective which leads all the cares of this world to begin to look trivial.
Note that there is a difference between not having a care in the world, and having every care for the world. The saints had both of these. Sin doesn’t hurt God insofar as it hurts Him to see us hurting ourselves and others.
Our consumerist culture would prefer that you see life as trivial. i.e. remain immature
It is only when we are serious that we are happy. However, our culture is fundamentally opposed to seriousness. It is based on consumerism.
To mature means to become a fully flourishing human being, which entails growing serious. We must grow in our understanding of responsibility to our own soul and to those of others. We must recognise that we have duties, as both citizens of this world and the world to come.
There is an increasing global investment in you staying immature, because it is beneficial for a consumer market economy. To be immature is to live in the moment, satisfying every desire immediately whenever possible. Adults who are immature are therefore simply cashed-up children. There are “toys” for people of all ages.
We think that’s what it is to have lived. To have indulged in every whim. Tourism tends to revolve around consuming experiences. In fact, you have not lived, for you have not grown in maturity, reason and moral responsibility. This requires personal effort, exercise of the will. We must learn to subordinate our feelings to reason, and to deepen them by discipline.
Where does Confession fit into all this?
The way we treat confession and sin reflects the way we treat being human.
Confession is one of the chief ways of being serious.
Calvinist approach- “direct confession” to God. Problem- very easily becomes trivial. “Oh, sorry God.” Cheap grace. Trivial and cheap view of ourselves. Cheap view of reality, of Being. We see ourselves as unstable. Easy confession- leads to presumption.
Best and most appropriate way of confessing? Proper, perfect way to be human? The more serious way? In the film The Mission, Robert De Niro’s character Rodrigo confesses to his crime of murder. Has a real sense of remorse. A sense of the seriousness of his sin. (Apologies, I couldn’t find a clip of it. But that means you should go watch the whole movie! It’s great.)
The sacrament of Confession has an objectivity that cuts through self-pleasing image of our sin. It helps us to be serious because it helps us to be responsible. Saying your sins aloud in the presence of another human being is a whole different experience to directly confessing to God. It keeps it private, when in fact your sins affect the whole Body of Christ. The embarrassment we feel in Confession, we ought to feel before God, not just before another person.
The exercise of a true and good will is impossible without the grace of God. Grace is not an excuse for passivity. It revives you! Gives life. Works to free our will, so that we grow in conscious cooperation with the grace of God.
The world prefers to patronise us, and keep us as little children. People downplay confession.
When we start our conversion, we are usually full of zeal. However, life is long. Not short. We settle back down in uneasy comfort.We lose our sense of urgency. Because you are no longer a child, you are meant to apply your will.
We are called to walk with God as friends, not always carried around like children.
|Rodrigo is forgiven|