I used to work with offenders.
That’s a terrible way of saying it. Really, I worked in treatment with those who came to me with notes written on their file, like sex offender and domestic violence offender. We used fancy terminology like recidivism and compulsion, but mostly we were concerned with the recurring nature of the problems, the abuse.
I thought, going into it, that I would teach people skills and I would uncover lies; I would advocate for voices that had been silenced. I did, but mostly I learned a lot about others, about myself, and about grace; about what is dirty and clean, what is conceivable, and what is forgivable.
I had to look in a mirror in that work and come face to face with this Truth:
I am capable.
I am not better.
I am not above.
Chief of sinners, though I be, Jesus shed His blood for me.
See, I have a slightly shady past. At this point in my life, I like to follow that up with, “don’t most of us?!” because it’s true. Most of us have struggled at one point or another with one big, bold question and it is robbing freedom right and left, for me, for you, for those who have rebelled, offended, abused, and every person in the middle of all of that-
Am I forgivable?
Until we answer this question our sins will haunt us and our offenses will remain the same. That was a giant lesson I learned. Mental capacity, family structure, employability – all were important, but slightly irrelevant in recidivism, that fancy word that means “Will they do it again?”
Galatians 5:17-21 tells us we have a flesh-and-Spirit war going on inside of us and around us, as believers or unbelievers. Satan wants our souls. The best way he can figure getting them is through the entanglement of shame:
For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever you want. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.
19 The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; 20 idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions21 and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.
Paul lists all of these deep and difficult things that separate us from God, quickly, or slowly over time as they are practiced. When we hate, when we have fits of rage, when we envy, when we act out in sexual immorality, we turn away from God just enough so that we can’t see Truth and then Satan uses shame to keep us turned, believing a lie that this thing, this sin cannot be forgiven.
A funny thing happens, we keep at it. Without a place to turn, we just keep walking straight into the desires of the flesh, into sexual immorality, into jealousy, into discord.
Jump ahead to Galatians 6:1 –
Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently. But watch yourselves, or you also may be tempted.
In hearing the Word of Truth, in another person opening our hearts and minds to the Spirit’s work, we can walk away…
walk away from shame
walk away from unforgiveness
walk into Light
walk into redemption.
God forgives. He forgives division, He forgives dissension, He forgives sorcery. He forgives orgies, he forgives idolatry. He forgives every dark thing we could encounter and He breathes life into broken hearts who have been abused, used, and tossed aside.
He also gives us one another to fight the good fight and walk away.
Whether your past looks like sexual impurity and selfishness or that of someone else’s, whether you did pretty darn good and avoided rebellion altogether…
You are forgivable.
You are forgiven in Christ Jesus.
You are loved.
He restores. Walk to Him in the Spirit and away from all the junk of life.
Forgiven, Restored, Set Free.
What sins do you think people label as “worse sins”?
How do labels for “worse sins” rob all of us of the freedom found in Christ Jesus? What part do you see shame playing?
What darkness have you seen Christ overcome in your past or around you that shines His Freedom into your life?
Finding Help and Healing:
If you need help and healing for sexual abuse or assault go to https://www.rainn.org/
If you need help and healing for domestic violence go to http://www.thehotline.org/
Find help and healing for porn addiction and sexual compulsivity at https://www.xxxchurch.com/
Find help and healing for violent behaviors in a specialized local treatment program. You pastor can help you find a local one, pray with you, and offer ongoing spiritual care and confession.