“Our churches teach that private Absolution should be retained in the churches,” reads the eleventh article of the Lutheran Church’s Augsburg Confession. The power of the Keys, that is, the power to forgive and retain sins here on earth, was instituted by Christ (Matthew 16:19; John 20:23) and was given to the Church for the sake of troubled consciences.
However, we Lutherans also recognize that the Absolution, which is the announcement of forgiveness, is a gift of God’s grace and not a new law to be obeyed. Therefore, just as we do not abolish private confession, neither do we require it. Furthermore, the ritual of confession is recognized among Lutherans to be of human right only and is not to be imposed upon a Christian, which would only serve to burden a conscience already burdened with sin. “Nevertheless, because of the great benefit of Absolution, and because it is otherwise useful to the conscience, Confession is retained among us” (Augsburg Confession, article XXV).
Because the Absolution is a gift and Confession is not a law to be obeyed, it is not necessary to list every sin while confessing. The Absolution is given for those sins that you know and feel in your heart.
Because our Lutheran Church treasures the gift of Absolution, nearly every Sunday service begins with a service of corporate Confession and Absolution, where our members confess aloud before God and each other, their sinfulness, and together rejoice in God’s free gift of forgiveness.