Shock and Horror
I think I lost a growing friendship today, and I think it was from assuming yesterday that I could "come clean" with my past story of sin and redemption and a picture of my current journey to one who is not really there in terms of being able to forgive a friend for being a sinner -- a real sinner. So I risked sharing something that could bring rejection, and it did. Ouch.
I remember years ago getting a good friend who had never read the Bible to start reading through it, and her horror when she read through the first books of the Old Testament. She read about horrible people doing horrible things, and she said to me "This is not a book about what it is to be good!" She was shocked, because it was not what she expected when she picked up the Bible to read through it.
And here I am . . . so used to God's grace and forgiveness, and my own forgiveness and healing, and the grace and forgiveness I experience in my community of faith . . . and I take it for granted, I guess! I know that I'm a real sinner with real sinful choices in my past and real ethical dilemmas each day and with a loving God Who paid a real and costly price for my real sin, past and present. And I forget that there is much of the world that doesn't know that, and so they hide their real sins in fear of judgment, and offer up the same judgment and rejection to others that they fear themselves.
Don't get me wrong! There are things, big and little, that deserve judgment. Victims deserve protection. Relationships deserve honor. Commitments deserve fulfillment, and responsibility deserves a full effort to accomplish one's best . . . and failure in all those things deserves judgment. And God is a God of justice. And people hold themselves and those around them accountable to do what is right, and judge those who are caught or who freely admit to doing what is wrong. That is all part of having a society that tries to provide the best life possible for all of us together.
The only problem with all those good principles and all those ways of teaching and enforcing those principles is this: none of us live up to them. If the goal is to keep moving forward toward a healthier world for all of us, and to bring reconciliation and healing and greater ability for us all to live out what is right, then dealing with what we have each done that is wrong must move us toward that goal instead of moving us away from it.
That is the message of Christianity, and indeed the message of the Judaism of the Old Testament as well: God does set standards, and does judge those who violate those standards, but then He also provides a means for forgiveness and reconciliation and healing and a moving forward again toward right relationships with Him and with each other. And open confession of sin on the part of the sinner is the sinner's first step toward accepting that forgiveness and healing.
There is a difference between the confession of one who is still rebellious and proud of their sin and the confession of one who is ready to turn away from his or her sin . . . so it is not just telling the truth that we are after if we are after healing. And then there is a third kind of confession . . . the kind that comes from one who has been healed and changed, and is telling the story of who they were and what God did in response and what has happened since.
I am a sinner -- not just in the sense of "we're all sinners and we all needed a Savior" but also in the sense that a true telling of my story with all the ugly details brings disgrace on me. I really did need a Savior. And I still do.
My good news is this: I have a Savior. He not only paid the penalty for my sin -- past, present and future -- but He also filled me with His Spirit to begin and to bring to completion a work in me that will teach me what really is good and give me the power to actually do what is good. I can accept His work, and I can accept the love and forgiveness of those who know Him too . . . and I can also accept the rejection of those who still hide their own sin for fear of rejection by Him and by themselves. And in accepting that rejection, I can be reminded not to take for granted His love and grace and mercy, and not to take for granted the love, grace and mercy I find in other forgiven sinners. And together we can provide a glimpse to those still under condemnation of the freedom and forgiveness that might be theirs!
Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!