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My wife and I went to confession yesterday. The line was pretty long (which was good to see, though I hate lines 🙂  As I sat and waited it struck me again that the Church is not just a loose association of like-minded followers of Jesus. It is not just “Jesus and me” as we believed when we were Evangelical Protestants.

We had a dinner scheduled afterward with an Evangelical who would hold confession with disdain. “All we need to do is confess to Jesus himself, not a priest.” Why would they think that way? Because of a fundamental difference in perspective on what the Church is. Is the Church an invisible association of lovers of Jesus or is it a familial organization with a government?

Jesus said, “I will build my Church (not churches)” and later says, “If your brother sins…take it to the Church.” (Matt 16:18; 18:15, 17). Jesus also gives the authority men to forgive or retain sins (Jn 20:23). If the words of Jesus mean anything, there must be an authority in the Church and it needs to be worldwide and we need to know where to find it. If a Baptist brother sins against a Methodist brother, where is the church with authority that can deal with the issue? There is no such mechanism among Protestants.

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There were 120 people in the Upper Room and that is significant because in Jewish society it was necessary to have 120 people to leave the larger community (city) to start their own community with courts, judges, binding and loosing. Even the Israeli Knesset today has 120 members. The Church IS that new community. The Greek word for “church” in the New Testament is ecclesia which means the “called out ones.”

Called out for what? To be a new society, a new city, a new community, a new kingdom. The Church is the new Israel, so we would expect it to be similar in structure and authority. This “Church” would necessarily have laws and rules, the authority to legislate and to adjudicate. In short, using the biblical terms, the authority to “bind and loose.”

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This government, this Church, this family was never promised perfect sinless leaders. That has been proven in spades throughout history and in vivid color this summer. But just because there are rogues who often infiltrate the leadership does not negate the truth of this one, holy, Catholic and apostolic Church.

Even Jesus had a Judas in his small band. We don’t leave Jesus and Peter because of Judas. If it can last for 2,000 years with every conceivable onslaught having thrown at it–and it still exists around the world bringing us the grace and forgiveness of God, laws and courts, beauty and worship–it is obvious that it is not from man but from God.

Sitting in the line for confession I realized that by virtue of my being there, I was acknowledging that I am part of something bigger than just “me and Jesus.” I was part of the governmental entity that was started in the Upper Room and continues today. I am accountable to Jesus, yes. But he is building a Church and I am a member of this new visible kingdom. My going to confession is a clear statement of that fact and of my submission to and recognition of that kingdom’s authority.

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This Post Has 7 Comments

  1. Mary Ney

    Thank your fornthis beautiful reflection

  2. Gus Zenker

    Well and beautifully said, Steve. Our love to you and Janet. Dar & Gus

  3. James Alexis Chhangte

    Thank you ,steve. I have learnt about your conversion story this year and i have gone through all your talks from youtube. I am a cradle catholic but your testimonies have enriched my faith. Just wanted to say thanks a million. And i have made an effort to share all the knowledge i have received from your talks to the catholic friends during youth fellowships and get together.

  4. Aloysius Churchgate

    What evidence is there that there were 120 people in the upper room? I've never seen that in scripture or in the Tradition. Just curious where you came up with that.

    STEVE RAY HERE: Acts 1:15. And Luke uses the word “names” not “people” which makes my point all the more pointed.

  5. Tony McNosky

    I was blessed to meet you on my first visit to Israel. It was you,
    a convert to the Catholic faith that cleared up so much for me
    about my doubting Catholic faith at the age of 49.
    It was you who pointed out to me the whys of the Catholic faith.
    Why we do what we do and believe what we believe.
    Thank you for crossing the Tiber and thanks to God for
    allowing us to meet. Blessings to you and your family, continue
    in preaching, teaching and spreading the truth of the Catholic Church.
    Tony McNosky

  6. Cheryl Abduljabar

    My thoughts on this is, why is it not obvious, that we must move with grace. Is it not obvious that the devil and his angles will foremost try to attack and attack the most holy, he is not looking for evil doers but saint of GOD foremost. Since we seem to be attacked more frequently, can’t everyone see his plan and not fall for it.

  7. Herman

    I watched a YouTube video the other day of this gentleman talking about confession, and he used a great analogy to use on our Protestant friends. When they say “Why not just go straight to Jesus?”, counter with “When you got married, why have a minister marry you? Just you and your wife stand here alone and say I Do straight to Jesus. Or for baptism. Don’t have a minister baptize you, just baptize yourself “. Confession has changed my life. And I’ll admit this to everyone now. I’m 27 years old. I converted to Catholicism at age 24. When I hit my teen years, I developed a masturbation addiction. I watched pornography and no matter how much I went “straight to Jesus”, I ended up doing it again a day or two after. After looking myself in the mirror and saying enough is enough, it’s time to truly commit to God, I discovered the Catholic faith through a great friend. I started going to confession. It was hard to confess those wicked sins. But there was GRACE in the sacrament. It was a process for me. It wasn’t an overnight fix but the more I went to confession, the better I did. Gradually I resisted the temptation. Three days ago marked an entire year since I last masturbated and viewed pornography on the computer. And I’m going to do everything in my power to never turn back. So to those of you who read this that are struggling with any type of sin, GO TO CONFESSION. No matter how many times it takes, never give up. God touches us through the sacraments. Thank you Lord for helping me discover the Catholic Church and thank you Steve Ray for defending the faith. May God Bless you all.

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