Forgiveness + Freedom = Responsibility

Hello Church Family, this is Pastor Phil-

Our reading today is from the Gospel lesson, Matthew 10:26-28

“So have no fear of them, for nothing is covered that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known. What I tell you in the dark, say in the light, and what you hear whispered, proclaim on the housetops. And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell”

“It’s your fault. No. It’s your fault. You’re not doing it right! What’s wrong with you!” 

Unfortunately, those words are very, very easy to say. 

It seems to be what I am hearing most often in the fighting around us right now over culture and race. For, whatever side someone seems to be taking about the issues, what is said most is that all of the problems in the world are someone else’s fault. Society, institutions, different kinds of people from who I am, even God. It’s all someone else’s fault that these things are happening. 

If you’re not as angry or ticked off as everybody else is on the topic of the moment, then you’re told you’re wrong, too, and it’s all your fault and if you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem. The solutions is whatever someone thinks should be be at that moment and, if you don’t agree, then you’re a horrible person. 

But it is so easy to say those words and to blame someone else for when things go wrong. You and me, we do it just as easily as anyone else. I know I hear that voice in the back of my mind when something has gone wrong and I had a hand in it going wrong. That voice in the back of my head wants to blame someone, anyone, just not me. 

We blame God. Why did this bad thing happen, why did this person get sick, why all of the injustice in the world? “God, it must all be your fault.” It’s easy to blame God because He doesn’t come down and smite us with lightning if we do, even when we deserve it, because that’s not how God works. 

But when we do this, when we blame everyone else, we’re missing the point. If it is everyone else’s fault and never my fault, then I can be angry all I want at the other person and demand that they change but never feel like I have a responsibility to change my own ways and how I am living. 

It is hard to take responsibility for our own actions because we’re scared to face the reality of our own mistakes. We know we can’t go back in the past and fix them. We’re scared our actions might actually say something about us that we don’t want to hear. 

Then we hear these words of Jesus and they are not comforting or encouraging either— “for nothing is covered that will not be revealed or hidden that will not be known.” Jesus says it clearly: the things about us that we don’t want anyone to know about, that we don’t even want to acknowledge ourselves, that we try to blame everyone else for–all of it will be uncovered and revealed. Nothing will remain secret.

And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Then another book was opened, which is the book of life. And the dead were judged by what was written in the books, according to what they had done

Revelation 20:12

This passage describes the last day, when Jesus comes back with all of the angels and all of humanity is there before the throne of God and all actions are revealed. When I was younger I actually I heard a sermon on this passage and imagined it was like a drive-in movie theater and everything I did was put on the movie screen for all of humanity to see. That is a terrifying thought. But that is the reality of what these passages say–nothing will be hidden; everything will be revealed. God means everything. With that kind of transparency, how can anyone ever hope to be saved or to pretend that our broken actions were someone else’s fault when it is up there on the movie screen for everyone to see. Your personal responsibility would be very clear and there would be no excuses. That is why it is so hard to take responsibility for our actions because they speak against us and there is absolutely nothing, nothing we can do about it. We, and we alone, have earned separation from God by our own actions. It is not God’s fault, or our neighbor’s fault, or anyone else’s fault but our own. 

But God, our Heavenly Father, doesn’t leave us like this, without any hope. God came and took all of the punishment for our sins upon himself. That is why Jesus died on the cross to suffer so we wouldn’t have to suffer eternally. It was not God’s fault, but God took the punishment anyway to save us because of His great love for us. By doing this, God provided for us what we couldn’t do for ourselves: a way to be saved, not by our own actions because we could never do enough to make up for the wrong, but by God’s actions for us in Jesus. When we believe and trust in what Jesus has done for us, we are saved. 

It’s like, on the last day, when all of our actions are up on that big movie screen, Jesus covers them all up with the most beautiful, purest white that you have ever seen, and then the words forgiven are written on the screen.

When we are forgiven, we can feel free to take responsibility for our actions because they don’t have the same damning hold over us anymore. They are no longer a death sentence like they used to be, but moments that we must learn and grow from, knowing that we are free to do so because God does not hold those things against us any longer and we don’t have to either. 

When those hurtful moments come back to haunt us, in our dreams and in our lives, we realize we’ve grown now, and we’ve learned not to blame others but to take responsibility for our actions. But we do that with a sense of peace knowing that we can leave all of those things in the heart of Jesus who died for us and move ahead in life as forgiven people who are free from the bondage of the past. 

Published by philipmcclelland.org

​I am a recovering burned out workaholic​ who forgot I couldn't change the world. From the ashes of that not only have I found a peace from God that I never knew but a focus on what matters, God, family and loving my neighbor as God has loved me. My burning out experiences really drive my writing and how much I want to share all of the good God has worked through the hurt I've experienced. Currently I serve a great little parish in Northern Ohio with my wonderful family and our furry farm of five dogs, four cats and the oddball handful of fish. You can find me at www.philipmcclelland.org.

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