I winced the moment I said it. I meant to be funny, but it came out mean. My comment sagged heavy on my heart when I went to bed and was still draped there when I awoke. I thought, My motives were pure, but my words were clumsy. Such self-talk purchased momentary relief, but soon enough the pain of my words began to haunt my heart again. After twenty-four hours of trying to let myself off the hook, I finally admitted what I had known all along. What I said was wrong. I had been a jerk.
Like many people with a guilt-inclined personality, accepting that the gospel is good news for me hasn’t come easy. Having grown up in the church, I knew the story, but could always think of why I might be exempt from sharing the joy of the gospel. I would worry about Jesus’ future separation between true and false believers (Matthew 25:31-46), troubled by the thought that even people who profess faith can be lost. I was haunted by the passage about the unforgivable sin (Matthew 12:30-32), wondering if perhaps I could push God too far away to return to Him. Christ coming again is supposed to be the best kind of news, but I sometimes wondered for how many people it would feel that way.
I sat in church with my head bowed and eyes lowered. I’ve failed God so, I thought. He must be very disappointed. Then my pastor said, “Look into Jesus’ eyes. See how He looks at you, how He sees you.” So I did. And in that moment, I wore the Samaritan woman’s shoes . . .
Do you have a dark secret that you’ve kept from others? Maybe you did something you think is so bad that if people found out about it they would have nothing to do with you. Perhaps you’re hooked on watching porn or you struggle with substance abuse. Maybe you’re carrying deep hatred for someone who hurt you.
One evening my family and I were watching an episode of the TV show Brain Games. It had a segment in which they tested the ability of people to make choices. One group went to an ice cream parlor that featured 50-60 flavors of the delicious dessert. The other group went to a shop that had only three flavors. The group who had to choose from many flavors experienced more anxiety than the group who had just a few selections. Having choices no longer liberated but debilitated.
The teachers of the law stormed into the temple and interrupted Jesus’ teaching by thrusting a woman in front of the crowd. They said to Him, “This woman was caught in the act of adultery. The law of Moses says to stone her. What do you say?” (John 8:4-5).
Theologians are debating what the apostle Paul meant when he said that “we are made right with God through faith and not by obeying the law” (Romans 3:28). Traditional Protestants follow Martin Luther’s insight that sinners like us can’t do enough good works to satisfy a holy God. We become right with God by putting our faith in Jesus. When we trust Christ, God our Father performs what Luther called the “joyous exchange,” placing the guilt of our sin upon Jesus and counting His righteousness as our own.
Some residents in my state are discovering lost treasure. Many have reclaimed cash, property, and other financial holdings. With the help of the state’s I-cash program, Melva recovered $296.33 that her previous bank hadn’t sent to her. Robert logged into the program’s website and discovered that his grandmother had left him a $3,000 inheritance. The program’s motto is: Discover what’s yours.
In June 1972, five men were caught in the burglary of a political party’s headquarters. Investigations revealed that the break-in was part of a high-level campaign of political espionage and sabotage.
God is greater than our shame. Because Saul failed to realize this, his life ended tragically. The Israelites were engaged in a fierce battle and suffered defeat at the hands of the Philistines on Mt. Gilboa. That day, the Philistines killed Saul’s three sons and wounded him. Humiliation, torture, and death were likely to follow his capture. Unable to endure the shame, Saul committed suicide. Beneath this desperate act, however, lurked the larger and the darker issues of disloyalty and disobedience to God.
The Bible can intimidate me sometimes. Certain statements bring on the guilt. Here are just a few of them: “You are to be perfect, even as your Father in heaven is perfect” (Matthew 5:48); “You must be holy in everything you do, just as God who chose you is holy” (1 Peter 1:15). Psalm 119 elicits enough guilt to last a lifetime: “I have devoted myself to Your commandments” (Psalm 119:45); “I rise at midnight to thank You for Your just regulations” (Psalm 119:62); “I have more insight than my teachers, for I am always thinking of Your laws” (Psalm 119:99); “I have done what is just and right” (Psalm 119:121).
Saulo was 16 when he drove the getaway car for a robbery that ended in murder. Now 32, Saulo says, “I remember sitting in the county jail, and it really sunk in: ‘Wow, I’m not going home,’ and [I] realized what I did. I didn’t want to live. I couldn’t believe what I did.”
One of the exciting milestones I witnessed in my daughter’s development was when she first learned to walk at 9 months. She pulled herself up to a standing position while holding onto a coffee table and took her very first step! Learning to bend her knees to sit after standing, and then mastering the standing position, she was soon cruising around the house. She was walking independently at 12 months.
During a promotional event, two 73-year-old former Canadian Football League players got into a fistfight on stage. They had a “beef” (a grudge or feud between friends, family members, or enemies) dating back to a controversial championship football game in November 1963. After one of the senior citizens knocked the other off the stage, the crowd yelled at him to “let it go!” In essence, they were telling him to “squash the beef.”