Full Text for Pastoral Theology and Practice- Volume 33 - Dealing with Post-Absolution Guilt (Video)

ROUGHLY EDITED COPY LUTHERAN PASTORAL THEOLOGY & PRACTICE LPTP-33 Captioning Provided By: Caption First, Inc. P.O. Box 1924 Lombard, IL 60148 800-825-5234 www.captionfirst.com *** This text is being provided in a rough draft format. Communication Access Realtime Translation (CART) is provided in order to facilitate communication accessibility and may not be a totally verbatim record of the proceedings. *** >> JOSH: I have a question. How do I counsel a person who has sinned, who has repented and been absolved, but who remains burdened with guilt that she cannot overcome? As you can tell, I'm thinking of a particular person here. A congregation member who had an abortion a couple of decades ago. I have struggled to help her, but she remains guilt ridden. Are you able to help me? Maybe you can provide us with some advice to handle situations like this one. >> PROF. SENKBEIL: Well, Josh, you put your finger on a situation that's probably one of the most difficult to handle. And that's one that a lot of people call post-abortion syndrome. It's not uncommon for women in the situations you described to have lingering effects of that action as they begin to recognize the reprehensible nature of destroying or killing their own unborn child and grieving a loss that seems to be almost, humanly speaking, irrecoverable. But, of course, all things are possible with God. And the forgiveness which is pronounced in such a contrite soul is an efficacious forgiveness, that is, it does what it says. And so you're to be commended for your pastoral concern for this individual. Now, that said, how does one assist such a person whether it be in post-abortion situations or other kinds of sins in struggling with being burdened by guilt or riddled with guilt, as you say it? Well, I think there a multiple layer effect is very important. Recognizing that a pastor must be patient in these circumstances, always listening. Sometimes I think it's easy for us as pastors in situations like that to become impatient, in fact, maybe even to be a little bit perturbed because that person hasn't heard what we're saying, evidently. They're not able to grasp what we've been giving them so carefully and faithfully. And so we might take it personally. And that would be the worst thing in the world. It's important, rather, that we listen compassionately, listening with our ears tuned to all the nuances. Perhaps as a person like this, for example, continues to give voice to a sense of guilt, maybe they're reliving the experience. Maybe they're asking themselves why did I ever think this way or why did I ever do this thing? Even though they, themselves, have confessed their sin and been absolved, they might be living with regret or playing some what-if games, for example, with themselves. The answer to this situation is always patiently and faithfully to continue to minister to them, to teach them the word of God, to listen to that word which was spoken in Christ's name and stead. I forgive you your sins in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. That forgiveness of sins which comes to us from the outside is the solution to the internal struggles that you talked about. Dr.�Luther used to speak of the external nature of the Gospel as the sure foundation upon which the Christian stands. That word of the Gospel always addresses me from the outside in. It is extra nos, as he said, in the Latin language. It comes to us from the outside. My assurance is never inside, because in my heart there dwells no good thing. Out the heart proceeds, Jesus said, all kinds of sin�-- murder, adultery, theft, fornications, and the like. So I always need to cling to that word which comes to me from the outside, which addresses me through the ear; that word which alone brings life. So part of the answer is faithfully to continue to preach publicly in the divine service regarding the riches and the abundance of the grace of God in Jesus Christ, His son, and then privately and personally to reassure that person and to reinforce what you're publicly preaching and teaching. Beyond that it's also possible to stress the very nature of the lively nature of this word and the -- efficacious nature of the sacraments themselves. After all, it's not for nothing that we call baptism Holy Baptism and that we call the Lord's Supper the Holy Supper. That is, because of the sanctifying nature of the word of God which is an instrument of the Holy Spirit, it drives away fear, it drives away the stress, it restores that person to innocence and righteousness before God and yes, even the holiness of Jesus Christ himself. Particularly in the sacrament of the altar I think this is important to remember. It's a remarkable thing, after all, that your Lord Jesus invited His disciples and His Christian church on earth to receive with their mouths not only His body but His blood. Blood, as you know, in the Bible is the fluid of life. The very life of God which bestows and gives life because it bestows and gives forgiveness. Where there's forgiveness of sins, there's also life and salvation. A person that wrestles with the burden of guilt that you described is wrestling with a whole load not merely of guilt but of shame and distress as well. They're wrestling also really with death itself. And so, to give them this assurance, this confidence in the life of Jesus Christ which is given to them in His word and particularly and uniquely in this sacrament that cleanses them from the inside out, if you will, to give to them the very righteousness and innocence of Jesus. The devil, you know, the Bible reminds us, is a liar and the father of lies. And he would like nothing so much as to get Christians to remember their sins. He continually preaches, if you will, to them regarding their past sins and asks: Are you sure that God could forgive that? The person that thinks thoughts like you are, how could he possibly be a real Christian? It's important then that Christians in such circumstances, when under the spiritual assaults of the accuser, the devil, that they are reminded of the clear word of the Gospel, the word of truth which addresses them from the outside in. That word which alone brings life and vitality by which they can drive out all fear and distress and the assaults of the evil one. When your conscience accuses you, Dr.�Luther reminded us, then listen to the word of the Lord Christ. When the devil accuses you of being a sinner, Christ intervenes. He says, "I will reverse that. I'll be the sinner. You go free." More specifically and directly, we could listen to these words of God himself in the second chapter of I John. "My little children, I'm writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But, if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the father, Jesus Christ the righteous. He is the propitiation for our sins. And not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world." So, when conscience or the devil accuses a person of sin, when they're burdened with guilt, remind them that they have a defense attorney par excellence, an advocate with the father. They have an advocate in high places. He sits at the right hand of God. He is Jesus Christ, the righteous one, who pleads his blood, his body before the throne of his father in heaven on behalf of all sinners of all time. He is an advocate with the father. His blood is the propitiation for all our sins. There's our confidence, and there's the assurance for such a person. Thanks very much for a very important question. *** This text is being provided in a rough draft format. Communication Access Realtime Translation (CART) is provided in order to facilitate communication accessibility and may not be a totally verbatim record of the proceedings. ***