We’ve been taught for a long time (and this is only getting stronger) that we must be true to ourselves, we must not tell others what to do, and we cannot ever question what someone thinks is right and wrong. These are unquestioned truths in our society right now. Be all you can be. Be true to yourself. Find yourself. Find your tribe. Be all you can be.
We can affirm some of that. We’re all created in the image of God. We want people to flourish. We want to give respect and honor to everyone. We love and cherish people and God’s creation.
But there’s this sticking point. There’s something called sin that gets in the way. What if deep down in the deepest part of you, you’re a sinner. What if your true self is a liar? Or a thief? Or a tattle tale? Or an embezzler? What if all you want to do is watch pornography all day? What if your true self is someone who doesn’t go to school, drops out in third grade and watches day time television every day? What if your inner self is morbidly obese or bulimic or anorexic? What if your true self hates yourself, or hates men or hates women or hates your gender or hates black people or white people or Latinos or Asians? What if your true self is a polygamist?
Christianity has always said there’s a moral authority, a God who determines what is right and wrong. We’re supposed to think what he thinks and live our lives in a way that pleases and honors him. That’s the good life. That’s what is right and true. Yes, we fail all the time, but there’s something to shoot for. It’s not all up for grabs and up to us to determine.
The other part of the equation is that God forgives. Hallelujah! When I peer into my heart of hearts and look deep down at my true nature, I see a sinner. I see deep, persistent sin. I see a person who often doesn’t even know or understand how he’s been shaped by his culture, his nation, his upbringing, his gender, his age, his whiteness, even his height or weight or abilities. I almost always give myself the benefit of the doubt, but perhaps that’s another indication of a real blindness to myself.
I need help! I’m mean. I’m sarcastic. I’m selfish. I’m greedy. I cuss too much and drink too much. I overestimate myself. I think too highly of myself. I’m proud. I’m a racist. I treat people poorly. I’m a bad friend. I don’t love my neighbors. I’m a Pharisee. I’m the other three characters in the parable of the Good Samaritan, the ones who don’t stop to help.
This is your pastor speaking!
We can always try to do better. We can work harder to eliminate the bad and accentuate the good.
However, what we really need is forgiveness. We need someone who knows it all, and still loves us. Someone who doesn’t blot us out, but who writes our names in the book of life, who gives us new names, who calls us his Beloved, who takes our debt, who pays our price, who sets us free, who forgives!!
This happens through Jesus Christ. He was smitten, stricken, and afflicted so you could be set free. He was wiped out so you could be brought in. He was cast out to the Place of the Skull, so you could be picked up and taken into the courts of the king. By his wounds you are healed. His cursing is your blessing. His shame is your glory. His nakedness on the cross is what allows you to be dressed in the finest linens.
We can’t just do better! We’re sinners! We need outside help. We need a new nature.
We have that in Christ. We’re told we’re new creations, the old is gone and the new has come. We can be a forgiven people, thrilled to be both known and loved. We don’t have to have secrets any more. We can be free. You were worth saving!