Not Guilty (For those living under the crippling weight of guilt.)

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We’ve all blown it in one way or another.

And when we do blow it, Satan dispatches a battalion of demons assigned to deceive us, relentlessly filling our mind with this lie:  your failures define you.

For those who succumb to that lie, what follows is a life lived under a crippling mentality of  oppressive guilt.  “How could God ever love or forgive you?”, the enemy whispers. “You certainly can’t go to God with the mess you’ve made of your life,” he hisses.  “He’ll only be angry with you, lecture you, and berate you. And, frankly, why shouldn’t he? You’re worthless.”

These whispered accusations of the enemy are, in today’s vernacular, what we would call “fake news.”

Never forget:  satan is a pathological liar.  And the God he describes above is found nowhere in Scripture.  For example…

The younger son in Jesus’ story in the latter half of Luke, chapter 15, had publicly insulted his father, humiliated his family, and wasted his entire inheritance on every vice one could think of. Further, it was only when he was broke, broken and starving that he finally “came to his senses.” (vs 17)

He knew the people in the village in which he once lived hated him for the humiliation and heartbreak he had caused his father and family.  In first century Jewish culture, when a son dishonored their father on the level that this son had it was not uncommon for a village to hold a “funeral”, of sorts, declaring that son “dead” to the family. (This is most likely why, in vs 24, the father shouts, “For this son of mine was dead and is alive again…”)

To echo the lying thoughts Satan places in our minds, the young man thought to himself, “I can’t go to my father with the mess I’ve made of my life. He’ll only be angry with me and berate me. And, frankly, why shouldn’t he? I’m worthless. I’m no longer worthy to even be called his son.”

But Jesus shocked his listening audience with the rest of story.

Luke records that his father was anxiously waiting for news of his son. One can only imagine how many hours a day the father stood at the highest point of the village trying to see as far as he could see to try and catch a glimpse of a miracle: the return of his beloved child.

Jesus’ story is dramatic and pregnant with meaning. And it’s not difficult to imagine Jesus’ Jewish audience sitting on the edge of their seats as, one day, the father notices a figure on the horizon. The suspense mounts. What will the father do? Fold his arms and stare down the disrespectful child?  Publicly scold and punish him? Loudly announce to the village, “Here comes the scum who claims to be my son!”?

But nothing could prepare the listening audience for the scandal that was about to transpire – a scandal of love.

Luke records it this way: “But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.”

The early 5th century theologian, Peter Chrysologus, commenting on this passage wrote, “This is how the father judges and corrects his wayward [children]: not with beatings, but kisses….The father redeemed the sins of the his son by his kiss, and covered them by his embrace, in order not to expose the crimes or humiliate the son (the father shielded the son from hate-filled accusations). The father so healed the son’s wounds as not to leave a scar or blemish upon him. ‘Blessed are they,’ Scripture says, ‘whose iniquities are forgiven, and whose sins are covered.”

When the repentant son began his rehearsed apology in verse 21 (“Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son”), the father, already knowing the brokenness of his son, seemingly ignores his son’s apology and orders his staff, “Quick!…Let’s celebrate!”

The legalist (portrayed in the older brother in Jesus’ story) demands justice in the story.  And, rightly so. We can’t expect to simply waltz back into our father’s presence hoping to get away with this level of rebellion.  Someone has to pay for the younger son’s sin! 

Someone did.  Twenty centuries ago.  On a hillside just outside of Jerusalem.  His name is Jesus Christ.

Are you weighed down with guilt?  Has the enemy convinced you you’re worthless?  Jesus is saying to you:  “Are you tired? Worn out?… Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me… Learn the unforced rhythms of grace.” 

Soli Deo Gloria, Nick