The particulars aren't important, both because I want to protect the friend's identity and because, though he was guilty of a particular wrong, it was born, like all wrongs are, of the same thing that drives us all to sin: a desire for something that wasn't his to have.
All sins boil down to our wanting or grasping for otherwise good things at the wrong times, or in the wrong ways, or for the wrong reasons, or with the wrong people. (To quote Jesus, after looking at that definition, I challenge you, "Those without sin, cast the first stone.")
Whether it's coveting, libeling, gossiping, cheating, lying, stealing, committing adultery, using God's name for anything other than prayer, praise, or thanksgiving, or a whole bunch of other things we might name, we're talking about sin. Sin violates God's holiness, God's intentions for human beings, God's boundaries for life at its best, and, apart from repentance and faith in Christ, something that can bring ruin to us, now and in eternity.
But when I heard about my friend's publicly acknowledged and unrepented wrong, saddened as I was by his act, more deeply, I felt an awareness of my own sins. As I thought about him, I couldn't bring myself to toss any stones.
I also wished--had he not cut himself off from many of us--surely a tacit, if unconscious, admission of the "wrongness" of his wrong--that I could talk with him.
I wanted to hear him out.
I also wanted to beg him not to allow pride to prevent him from seeing that his sin was not just a "personal choice" and that there was a way to be free of his sin, if not of the relational and worldly consequences they might bring for the short-term (i.e., the rest of this life).
I wanted to acknowledge my own imperfections that led me to sin and tell him that I was able to deal with them through the grace of God available to anyone willing to let God's Word about Jesus Christ wash over their lives, freeing us from sin and empowering us to live in an intimate relationship with Him.
Jesus, the perfect innocent, God in the flesh, died on the cross to erase the power of all our wrongs over our lives and eternities. Then God the Father raised Jesus from the dead, confirming that Jesus is the only way to life with God.
Jesus sets free from sin and death all who trust in this Gospel--this Good News--Word about Him.
While driving a long country road on the night I'd gotten the news of my friend's admission, I prayed for him and for those most affected by his wrong. "God," I remember praying, "help him turn to Christ. Bring someone who can speak the truth of Your love and power to him. Change his mind about all of this."
In the darkness, as I drove to a group Bible study, words and music came into my mind and out of my mouth, words that I wished I could speak to my friend right then, had I been able to find him:
Ev'rybody falls off their pedestals and tumbles to the groundI believe in the grace of God that Jesus went through a cross and an empty tomb to give to people who dare to lay aside their hubris, fears, and sin and follow Him.
And there's no point in feigning strength when we all have fallen down
But when I'm made weak
By the things that I seek
I know Someone Who's strong.
I send out a prayer
And I know that He's there
And somehow I can carry on
Through the laughter, through the tears
Through all the raging years
In the deep heart of a bleak night I know my God is there
Through the joy and through the pain
Through all the driving rain
When all my hope has left sight
I know my God is there.
© 2016, Mark Daniels
I believe that that grace can change our lives now, allowing the power, strength, and peace of God's eternal kingdom to enter our imperfect, dying lives.
And I believe that all who cling to Christ and His cross, owning their sin and their need of God's grace, will live with God in a perfect kingdom beyond death.
Jesus' death and resurrection prove that those beliefs are well-founded.
No matter what your sins, Jesus wants you.
No matter your imperfections or screw-ups, Jesus wants you.
And even after you sin again tomorrow, Jesus will still want you to lay claim to His grace and forgiveness and new life so that you can get on with the business of living life as it was made to be lived by the God Who made you.
Jesus is proof that, if you want Him, God will always be there. In a memorable sermon during Luther Week in Anaheim last week, theologian Dr. Jim Nestingen said of Jesus, "He's the Best! There's nobody better."
Keep trusting in Jesus, God the Son, and let Him cover your imperfections and wrongs with His perfection and righteousness.
Fall into Jesus' orbit through regular worship, regularly receiving Holy Communion, regularly reading and reflecting on His Word in the Bible, and regularly growing as disciples alongside other believers in Jesus in the Church. You will know the truth of Jesus' promise to be with you always.
[Blogger Mark Daniels is pastor Living Water Lutheran Church in Centerville, Ohio.]