The Beginning of Freedom
There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. Romans 8:1
Whenever I’ve relapsed into self-destructive behavior, I’ve simultaneously turned my back on God. In recovery then, I had to return to that relationship. In the destruction of my addiction however, the shame and guilt were overwhelming and though I knew I was forgiven, I didn’t feel like it. I’d made a disaster of my life and I felt like I had to clean up before I turned back to God.
I was like an out-of-shape, overweight man, who felt like he had to get in shape before going back to the gym. He may desperately need the gym precisely to get into shape, but the very reason he needs to go is the thing that prevents him from getting there.
We do the same thing in our mess. We try to clean up our lives and then return to God, when we must return to God so we can clean up our lives. Paul said in today’s passage, that there is absolutely no condemnation for those whose faith is in Christ. Though we may have caused massive destruction and though we may be indebted to those around us, because of Christ’s sacrificial death on the cross, we aren’t indebted to God. When we ask forgiveness, he wipes our slate clean forever, so that in the grand scheme of eternity, we are forgiven and free.
This is blessed news for anyone who’s made a mess of life. The addict, in his disaster, feels he must clean up that disaster before he can recover, but that’s not the place to start. The beginning of freedom is to first understand that, before God, we’re forgiven and free, even in the mess. The addict doesn’t need to put life back together before he can return to church. He should return to church and to God so he can begin putting life back together.
I had to learn to first live in the reality of my spiritual transformation before I repaired all the details of my life. In fact, the only way to put my life back together was to turn to God, realizing I could never earn his love and mercy. Daily, this is still the challenge. I may be sober, but I’m still continually tempted to return to my own path. So, daily, I must continue to accept that God loves me and has forgiven me no matter what. I can never earn it, but I can continually choose to live in the blessed reality of his love and mercy.