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Reform Magazine | March 30, 2017

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The Great Restoration: Part three – confession

The Great Restoration: Part three – confession

If God’s love is unconditional, what are confession and repentance for? Lawrence Moore concludes his series on sin and restoration

A question: What are confession and repentance for? They are not the preconditions to forgiveness, because God’s grace is unconditional. Rather, as the Croatian theologian Miroslav Volf reminds us, they are our response to God’s forgiveness, and lead to reconciliation. Volf likens forgiveness to the cruciform, open-armed offer of an embrace on the part of the victim: repentance is the act of stepping forward into the embrace in which healing and reconciliation happen.

The process of forgiveness, repentance, confession and reconciliation is the ongoing, daily pattern of Christian life. It is Easter-shaped – that process of death, burial and resurrection that is pictured in our baptism. As the Sabbath week of six days of work followed by rest ensured that the pattern of daily life was Yahweh-shaped, the pattern of daily forgiveness, repentance and confession that issues in reconciliation is nothing less than the practice of affirming that what happened at Easter has shaped the pattern and future of creation.

It is a “protest movement” – an intentional, lived alternative to the daily experience of a world made without reference to God. Sin is much bigger and more serious than the list of wrong things we do: it is the framework for our life that keeps God out and convinces us that the only way to have life in all its abundance is by taking as much advantage as we can of those over whom we have power. Of course, the world has rules: contracts carefully set the limits of exploitation and lay out mutual responsibilities, but they do not challenge the underlying assumption that brokenness, alienation and competition are the norm. “Contract” establishes how humane the world can be, yet it is a universe away from healing and reconciliation, because we are under law, not grace. …

Lawrence Moore is director of the Windermere Centre – a United Reformed Church resource centre for learning

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This is an extract from the September 2013 edition of  Reform

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