GUILT AND GRACE
Mighty God, You are Lord and Sovereign. I place my life in Your strong hands.
Read NEHEMIAH 9:22–38
Scripture taken from the THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION, NIV Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
“Sin didn’t, and doesn’t, have a chance in competition with the aggressive forgiveness we call grace. When its sin versus grace, grace wins hands down” (Rom. 5:20, The Message).
Keiko and Nori, postgraduate students in my country for three years, could never bring themselves to attend church on Memorial Day Sunday. They felt the shame of their country’s involvement in war. “It was not your fault,” I used to say. “It happened long before you were born.” Among other things, they taught me the force of collective responsibility, in stark contrast to our Western individualism.
Shouldering the consequences of ancestral dishonor and participating in its guilt are mirrored here in this Israelite prayer. The oft-repeated cycle of deliverance, abundance, forgetfulness, apostasy, judgment, prayer and rescue is recounted to God in gory detail. Following the miracle-filled Exodus and wilderness wanderings, God’s provision of the land in the conquest and his generosity evident in homes and vineyards makes their disobedience and blasphemy puzzling and outrageous. Their prayerfulness, fueled far more by despair in desperate times than by gratitude in plenty, is shocking, but it rings true now as well as then. Yet as the self-reflection moves towards its climax, bringing the litany of wrongdoing to the present day, confession bows at the feet of a God who again shows himself to be merciful. In God’s covenant of love there is no place for guilt and shame to enslave and paralyze us. We pray to One whose overriding will is for reconciliation and freedom.
There is no denying that we live with the consequences of other people’s sinful choices as well as our own. We become enslaved in a country where economics are the supreme value, in a society entertaining itself to death, in a church distracted by non-essentials. Times of self-examination can be painful, but where they afford us understanding, resolve and repentance, God is present to forgive and restore.
Bring to God your country, your local community and your church. What barriers lead people away from God’s goodness?
Merciful Lord, I am grateful that when I confess my sins they are forgiven, forgotten, forever.
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