“Most merciful God,
we confess that we have sinned against you
in thought, word, and deed,
by what we have done,
and by what we have left undone…”
There comes a point in the service each Sunday where our congregation bows in a moment of corporate confession. This time serves to prepare our hearts for the Lord’s Table and provides an opportunity for reflection, confession, and connection with God.
Usually the things that I’ve done come to mind much more quickly than the things that I’ve left undone. Nonetheless, I’m thankful when the Spirit of God calls to my attention sins of omission: things that I probably should’ve done, but for some reason or another neglected to do.
When recounting the stoning of Stephen, Luke inserts a short clause that if we’re not careful, we can easily read over: “And the witnesses laid down their garments at the feet of a young man named Saul” (Acts 7:58b). This seems like an unusual detail to include, but it actually tells us quite a bit about Saul’s involvement.
The men who stoned Stephen had entrusted themselves to the authority and oversight of Saul. While he probably did not physically cast a stone at Stephen, Saul was present, approving, and guilty by inaction (Acts 8:1). He had given his stamp of approval to the persecution and martyrdom of Stephen (and presumably many other early believers).
When Saul finally encountered the resurrected Jesus on the road to Damascus, he needed to seek repentance not merely for the evil things he had done (which were many), but also for things that he’d left undone. The conversion of Saul to Paul is one of the miraculous events recorded in the New Testament, and it is also one of the most encouraging. It’s a demonstration to all of us that God can use anyone, no matter their past.
No matter what you’ve done, or left undone, there is mercy, forgiveness, and redemption to be found. Maybe you’ve stood idly by when someone needed a hand. Maybe you’ve failed to act in love in a difficult situation. Maybe you turned a blind eye to a situation you knew was just plain wrong. Regardless of the circumstance, there is great hope and grace abundant for all who ask.
Saul spent a good chunk of his life ignoring and actively contributing to the persecution of God’s people, yet God forgave him and eventually raised him up to a position of leadership.
Each time I find myself in a moment of confession, corporate or otherwise, I also find myself in a place of deep gratitude and thankfulness. There is joy in asking for forgiveness and receiving it with no strings attached. For what we have done, and for what we have left undone, for our deepest regrets and failures, we ask forgiveness in the name of Jesus Christ, and He gives it.
Lord give us the strength and peace that we need to delight in Your will and walk in Your ways, to the glory of Your name. Amen.
Written By Andrew Stoddard