IT’S NOT unusual to feel bad about your mistakes. But it’s a lot worse to ignore them. Meanwhile, the enemy delights in twisting us into knots.
In the past when I immersed myself in sinful living, I refused to recognize my faults. I simply did not care.
Sooner or later though, your heart speaks up. Your soul cries out, and says, Enough! And then the battle begins.
You want to do better, but old ways die hard. The enemy comes along and tells you, “Ok, fine. Now your sin has been revealed to your conscience. So look at it. Look at the mess you made. What a disaster. There’s no hope for you.”
Too many times I took the bait. I swallowed the lie that my error was the end of it all. Guilt consumed me.
Meanwhile, there’s a strong tendency today to play the role of the victim. Nobody wants to claim responsibility for their actions. They claim to be victims of culture wars, a lack of opportunity, an unfair society, ‘the system’, and so on. Everyone else is to blame.
Some of this is true. Many are driven to commit atrocities due to their environment and upbringing. But is that all there is? Am I simply a product of where I was born and how I was raised? Do I have nothing to answer for in my history at all? If so, this makes me non-human. I’m just a robot following commands.
The denial of my sin distorts my identity since my failures define me as much as my victories. If I don’t own my mistakes, at least in part, I lose ownership of my history. Some will do anything to deny the existence of sin. They will even sell the rights to their personal story.
On the other side, there’s a camp that elevates personal responsibility to the highest level of all virtues.
Claim responsibility and tighten your bootstraps, they insist. Stop wallowing in victimhood and stand up for yourself. Get better and improve yourself every day, and you’ll see positive results sooner or later.
There is a lot of merit in this kind of talk. We humans are much more capable than we realize. Our innate potential is enormous.
But what if I just can’t? Just telling me I can do it over and over again forgets something important. What’s the missing ingredient? What’s been lost here?
Both victimhood and exaggerated self-reliance forget about my hunger for God.
You can focus on your mistakes and weakness if you want. You can complain about the bad hand life dealt you. Still, if these things define you, your life eventually rots away since guilt and bitterness live at the core.
You can also get all crazy about getting better and improving. You can obsess over gaining new skills and strengths. But eventually you’ll find your tank is empty, and a gnawing hunger remains inside.
Jesus once told a parable (Luke 18:9-14) about a Pharisee who was impeccable in his behavior and his efforts. He went to the temple to thank God for not being a thief, evildoer, or adulterer. The Pharisee proclaimed how he did all the right things. But he asked for nothing so he received nothing.
Meanwhile, a tax collector stood at a distance and didn’t even raise his eyes to heaven. But he did not remain silent in his misery. Instead, he beat his breast and cried out saying, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’
Even though the tax collector was corrupt, he recognized his hunger for God. The tax collector went to the temple to pray. And the sinner went home justified.
So instead of getting tangled up in guilt, I must recognize my need, my hunger. And even if I manage to express the best version of myself possible, I must acknowledge the hunger still remains.
My life depends on God. My soul cries out for his mercy. When I align my head and heart with this cry, I turn to the Father.
And what’s his reply?
I imagine him saying to me:
Yes, you are a sinner, but I do not define you by your sin. That’s not what you are all about. That’s not what I am about.
Instead, I satisfy your hunger and quench your thirst.
My deepest desire is eternal, abundant life for you.
My motive is love.
Yes, I want you to try your best, but you don’t have to win your way into my heart as you are already there.
Trust in this. Believe.
I am with you always.
My Son Jesus leads you to me.
And just like that things are put into their proper place. My sin is real and it hurts, but there is healing to be found.
There’s a lot I can and can’t do, but with God, I can move forward.
Let the Bread of Life feed your hunger.
Be well fed and prepared for each day.
_ _ _ _ _ _ _
For the bread of God is the bread that comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.”John 6:33-35
“Sir,” they said, “always give us this bread.”
Then Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.”
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