Today’s Word from Pastor Tom Kidd…
“If Satan cannot bind you by your sin, he will bind you by the eﬀect of your sin.”
Never were truer words spoken. It was early in my ministry that these words became real. Though I cannot recall the exact work from whence they came these words are credited to C. S. Lewis. What is the eﬀect of sin? Guilt, shame. The sacrifice for our sin was made once for all (Hebrews 9:26, 10:10), resulting in sin no longer ever being the issue. Ever. The issue of sin was resolved on the cross. But the eﬀect of sin? Well that’s another issue entirely.
If we can yet be bound by the eﬀect of our sin (guilt, shame) then the next best thing is accomplished. Our lives remain small, withdrawn, and spiritually impoverished. We remain impotent in terms of living out a grace-filled life which is the best witness for the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We are not cavalier about our sin, just liberated. Our very life becomes a powerful weapon in the ongoing task of pushing back darkness in the life of our neighbor. Hence, Lewis’ point, if we cannot be bound by our sin, the next best tool for the force of darkness is to keep us bound by our guilt and shame.
In the remote B.C. community where we lived, we had one church for everything on the denominational menu. For example, it was two years after our arrival before I met with another Lutheran clergy. We didn’t get out much. The upside was a pretty vibrant interfaith ministerial. Once a month we gathered for prayer, conversation, and continuing education. Necessity is the mother of invention. We were generally pretty accommodating of one another even though the theological diﬀerences were always evidentiary. Once during a discussion of baptism (Why is it always baptism?), after a passionate conversation I said to the very senior Pentecostal Pastor, “Okay, let’s agree to disagree. You do it your way and I will do it the Lord’s.” He about choked trying to take back his “Okay” before he realized what he had agreed to.
There was one mild case of theological exceptionalism among us. His denomination aside, my empathy for his plight knew no bounds when I heard his Elders had asked him to resign because of his lack of faith. His wife had been diagnosed with MS. The “spiritual leaders” in his church charged him with a faith insuﬃcient to serve as their pastor. After all, if he had enough faith, his wife would have been healed. I remember later sitting across the table from one of his Elders, a school district administrator, and having some unspoken very non-Christian thoughts. It was not long before that pastor left the ministry entirely. Guilt, shame, the eﬀects of sin can be profound in their power to destroy life. No one’s salvation was lost, but there was certainly no glory given to God in this heart-wrenching story of the church at its worst.
I have another quote for you which I believe speaks to our life of faith. Credit for these words is given to Bobby Kennedy: “When you make a mistake, hang a lantern on it.” How strange that feels coming from a political figure. In this age of obfuscation, denial, alternative truths, lies, et al, it seems almost perverse to have a public figure advocate shining a light on our mistakes. Weird. Yet, at its heart, that speaks to a state of grace. We should not be bound by the consequences of bad decisions, of sin. Put a light on them and then, in the spirit of Easter, find a way to move on. The Kingdom of God is glorified by grace lived.
Advent is the season of shining a light. In the Christ child we learn of God’s deep empathy for our condition and the Holy desire for us to truly live freed up lives. Not by sin or by the consequence of the same are we to be bound. It’s a Christmas gift that keeps on giving.
Prepare for the light. Be not afraid.
Peace and love in this season of light to be shone,
As a bit of a P.S.,
I am a fan of TED Talks. Recently I listened to a moving Talk from a somewhat unanticipated source, Monica Lewinsky. I could not be more encouraging of your investment of 22 minutes of your time. She speaks profoundly of guilt, shame, and the power of empathy (TED Talks, Monica Lewinsky: The price of shame, August 2020).