Finding freedom in redemption to be transparent about all we are and all we have been
A few weeks ago, I was talking to a girl who was fairly new to attending church and on the fence with calling herself a Christian or not. We chatted about what made her start coming, what kept her coming, and what reservations she still had. After we had talked for a good while, she said, “But you know, the thing that has stood out to me most is how vulnerable and honest people are about their weaknesses here. You never see anything like that outside of church, but I find it so refreshing. It’s kind of funny, because most of the time people are doing everything they can to prove how confident they are, how cool and smart and polished they are, and yet in church where people are completely open with how much they are not these things, somehow they actually seem more grounded and secure and confident than all the people working so hard outside of church to prove those same things.”
I thought this was such an interesting and encouraging observation, and it reminded me of an experience I had several years ago. I was talking with a girl from my church who I sort of knew from Sunday mornings, but had never really had a one-on-one conversation with. As we sat together on the way home from a church weekend away, we really clicked and quickly started sharing life experiences we’d had in common and ways God had taught us things through them. In the midst of this, the girl shared where she had started in her younger years of faith, and in passing, mentioned something that she used to struggle with that God had brought her through. To be honest, I think I stopped listening for a minute in shock. Not shock at the struggle (I think when we have any sort of grasp of the sinfulness of our own hearts, it makes it quite difficult to be shocked at the struggle of anyone else, whatever it may be) but rather amazement at the way she mentioned it. Though it was a struggle that people generally sort of blush at, this girl chatted through it then moved on with such freedom and casualness - it was like nothing I’d ever heard before. This girl had so fully and undeniably experienced the grace of God it was like the sin had absolutely no connection to the person she was anymore and she could therefore bring it up without any shame or burden of weightiness or fear of how it reflected on her. It was this realization that jarred me, how absolutely 100% convinced she was of the reality that she was forgiven of her sin. Her chains had truly been broken, she had been set completely free, and to talk about her past sin was like talking about a different person or an adversary from a time countless ages ago, one who was now powerless, old, limp, defeated, and long-gone.
This girl’s unflinching confidence in Jesus’ grace really challenged me, and it’s something I still pray that God will keep fresh in my heart. But the impact of the freedom with which she talked about her past is something I try to remember too when I’m talking about my faith. Because God really has freed me from SO much, and I really am 100% confident that the marks of my past have no bearing on me anymore. What a crazy and immense blessing that is!
Like my first friend noticed and commented on, when we don’t have this assurance of redemption, this justification of who we are as humans in this universe, we often seek that same type of assurance in the eyes of the world. We desperately look around, trying to determine a scale of what is good or valuable or worthy in some way or another, then obsessively compare ourselves to others to track how we’re measuring up. Social media and TV are perfect examples of people constantly trying to prove they are good and/or highly valuable people in some way or another – sometimes through good things like social justice work, sometimes through less good things like pursuing fame at any cost, or pushing others down in some way or another.
But the Gospel frees us from all this. We don’t have to hide our ugly traits or filter and fake good ones. God calls us to Himself as we are, seeing all our brokenness and the ugly, dark corners of our hearts that we’ve worked so hard to hide from everyone else. Every nook and cranny He looks upon and loves, even in its twisted brokenness. He sees our shame and our chains, then breaks our bonds and redeems us as His own.
Where there is forgiveness, honesty, truth, and grace, there is freedom. Knowing that "as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us" (Psalms 103:12), we can move through the world in confidence, free to share what we once were, and free to step into who He has made us to be.
Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.