The Confession of John McClain


Die Hard was a front runner for what became a Hollywood trend of musclebound, testosterone driven action movies.   While the later movies in the series were much more along the lines of typical explosive fueled romps, the original Die Hard was a lot more character driven.   Some of the best scenes in the movie are actually the ones that do not involve guns or explosions.   Die Hard is probably not the movie that floats to the top of the list of films that provide the potential for deep spiritual reflection, but there is a scene from Die Hard that is especially poignant to the Christian life.   

 The main character John McClain is tired, wounded, and hopelessly outgunned in Nakatomi Tower.   In this scene he is beginning to feel like he may not make it, and that gets him to take stock of the ways he has messed up over the years.  He reflects about this over the radio with his “partner” Al who is relatively safe outside the tower.  When it comes to reflecting on his strained and almost broken marital relationship McClain says, “She's heard me say ‘I love you’ a thousand times. She never heard me say ‘I'm sorry’.”

Saying we are sorry admits our wrongness, our brokenness, our guilt, and our absolute need for absolution.   It is not a comfortable thing, but it is a necessary thing for mental, emotional, and relational health.   I think saying sorry is also important for our spiritual health. I also cannot help but wonder how much the quote from Die Hard applies to our relationship with God.  God has heard us say I love you a thousand times.  We sings songs of worship expressing our love to God, but how often do we tell God “I’m sorry”?

In Christian tradition we have a particular word for the spiritual discipline of apologizing to God, and that is confession.   Confession is more than just airing our dirty laundry before God so that we can get it off our chest and feel better.  Confession is so more than just a therapeutic exercise.  It is a deeply spiritual practice with eternal implications.  When we tell someone we are sorry we are admitting we have done wrong by them and we are seeking forgiveness.  When we confess we do the same thing, we seek forgiveness for our sins.   If we do not ever tell God I am sorry for the ways that we have done harm, I am sorry for the ways we have not done good, I am sorry for the ways we have acted in pride, and I am sorry for the ways that we have not acted justly then we cannot be forgiven.   Jesus cannot be our savior if we never confess why we need to be saved in the first place.  

This week the church calendar once again enters the season of Lent.  Lent is a manmade tradition, but it is one rooted in the scripture and turned towards God.  Lent is a time in the life of the church where all who follow Jesus are called upon to more seriously consider what it means to be a disciple of Christ.   The tradition of the church is to begin the season of Lent on Ash Wednesday.  The United Methodist book of worship explains the point of this evening as such: “Ash Wednesday emphasizes a dual encounter:  We confront our own mortality and confess our sin before God within the community of faith.” 

Ash Wednesday begins Lent because it is a way of recognizing the value of confession.  God has heard us say we love you a thousand times, but on Ash Wednesday God hears us say “I’m sorry.”  This act of confession has a way of reminding us why we are Christians in the first place.  We are Christians because we need Jesus.   This truth is illustrated beautifully in 1 John 2:1 “If anybody does sin we have an advocate with the Father-Jesus Christ the righteous one.  He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.”

Not every Christian tradition recognizes Lent, but that does not lessen our need for confession.  Even if you do not normally observe a holy Lent, may you humbly and sincerely be able to go before God and say “I’m sorry.” 


Heroes on Both Sides