What if we can’t forgive ourselves for the sins that haunt us? What if in the middle of beating ourselves up for the hundredth time, we suddenly become aware of an angry voice and then a loud slapping noise? Startled we stop and listen. Now, we hear several voices. Then we hear our name and a formal sounding voice announcing publicly the foul secrets of our heart. After the naming and description of each sin, we hear the sound of a whip and a groan.
Drawn by the sound of our own name, our sins, and what seem to be the sounds of punishment we move closer until we see a man’s back sliced by the lashes of a whip. We watch as the victim is then laid on an executioners cross. We hear the sickening sound of a mallet as it pounds the spikes into hands and feet that look like our own. Even though we are too caught up in the moment to any longer hear the sounds of the executioners or the taunts of the crowd, we sense that every drop of blood, and every bit of torment is, in some way, connected to the sins of our own life.
What if by some mysterious grace we are enabled, as never before, to sense the horror of the physical, emotional, and spiritual pain of the One who was being punished in our place– until we finally see his eyes close, and hear him say, it is finished.
What if, as we watch, we are so captured by the horror and extent of the torment and punishment that, without realizing it, we have stopped hitting ourselves. Instead we find that we have become one with the action as “Pilate said to them, “What then shall I do with Jesus who is called Christ?” They all said to him, “Let Him be crucified!” Then the governor said, “Why, what evil has He done?” But they cried out all the more, saying, “Let Him be crucified!” (Matt. 27:22-23)
Is it possible that whether or not we are supposed to forgive ourselves is incidental to a life-changing awareness of the price and the punishment that our Substitute paid in full for our sin?
An event infinitely more intense actually happened. Not just in our imagination, but in a real time and place.
From what I know of this Christ, as described in the Gospels, he would be honored to have us feel sadness for our wrongs. But I can’t imagined that he would be happy to see us acting as if his suffering was not enough to pay the full price for our sins. After the inexpressible and immeasurable agony he experienced for us, how could it possibly be to his honor to see us hitting and kicking ourselves as if we could, by any means, add anything– but our acceptance and gratefulness– to what he suffered for us?
What certainly would bring delight to him is to hear us join the Apostle John in expressing our everlasting gratefulness, “Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood, And has made us kings and priests unto God and his Father; to him be glory and dominion for ever and ever” (Rev 1:5-6).
Now, what are you thinking? If this resonates, I’d like to hear a bit of your story. Or if in your struggle for peace you have questions you’d be willing to ask, I wish you would. I’m guessing the conversation could be helpful for all of us.