Confession and Absolution in the Home


We have a two and a half year old at home.  And on top of that he’s super affectionate, both in wanting give lots of hugs and kisses and in a desire to hit, push, or just smother his sister.  Since we have a toddler who does this, we are no stranger to time outs in our house.

And this becomes very evident when Elijah gets hurt by a toy and puts his toys in time out.

Whenever we do a timeout with Eli, we always do the same thing.  And its super intentional, incredibly important, and rooted in hundreds of years of church tradition.  Our timeouts are mixed together with what has historically been known as Confession and Absolution.

What is Confession and Absolution?

Confession and Absolution have been long a part of the history and traditions of several denominations of Christianity.  Confession refers to the confessing of our sins, either corporately when gathered with other believers or privately, often to a priest or pastor.  Absolution refers to the forgiveness of sins.  This tradition has long been practiced in all kinds of denominations in some form or fashion.

The idea in the practice is that we confess our sins.  And when the confession is made the pastor or priest then speaks the very words of God that our sins are forgiven.

Confession has two parts.First, that we confess our sins, and second, that we receive absolution, that is, forgiveness, from the pastor as from God Himself, not doubting, but firmly believingthat by it our sins are forgiven before God in heaven. - LCMS description of Confession/Absolution

What’s that look like in the home of a rambunctious two year old?

When the timeout ends, I always respond in a somewhat similar way.  And I imagine this will change slightly as the ages of my kids changes.  But in the midst of the changes I hope confession and the words of forgiveness are always spoken in our home.  At the end of timeout, I go get Elijah and always ask him, “Do you know why you are in timeout?”

Surprisingly, he usually does.  And then I ask for his two-year-old version of a confession when I ask, “Did you say sorry to Jesus?”  I actually remember this from growing up myself and learning that I always needed to apologize to Jesus when I did something wrong.

Elijah will usually respond immediately saying, “Sorry Jesus.”  And at that, I am given the important responsibility to make sure he hears, “Your sins are forgiven.”  His confession is "I’m sorry."  The absolution is “You are forgiven.”

As parents, my wife and I declare to Elijah after his timeouts that his sins are forgiven.  That’s our God-given role as parents.  As a dad I speak the very words of God to my son when he hears that he’s forgiven.  That’s a huge deal.

By this point he usually is climbing all over me and trying to get me to let him go back and play.  I try to get a kiss in and then always also make sure he apologizes to the person that he hit or disobeyed.

And then a few minutes later the whole process repeats itself...

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