Hiding Guilt and Shame
by Warren Graff
February 24, 2017
Jesus is light. Sinful flesh runs for the dark where things can’t be seen. The bad is hidden. You can’t make out the lines of what you’ve accomplished or failed to accomplish in your life when darkness drapes all. More importantly, you can’t make out the bright lines of how you’ve treated your neighbor. In the darkness, everything is just kind of there, with no definition. And no guilt. Just as the corrupt administrator doesn’t want to stand before congress and openly testify, the sinner wants it all kept in darkness.
Shame, too, hides in the dark. Not just guilt. We can have guilt for what we’ve done to our neighbor, and we want that kept hidden. But we can also have shame for what has been done against us, and we want that hidden too.
So in a perverse way, as long as we’re in our sinful flesh, we run for the dark—it’s where we’re safe from being outed for our sin and exposed for our shame. Sinful flesh flees the light. Darkness seems safer.
Light Shines Forth
Then comes the Law: You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart; you shall love your neighbor as yourself; the Ten Commandments—the Law comes. It’s like turning a light on in the middle of the night in a dirty kitchen. The light comes on, the roaches scatter. The Law shines light, the sinner runs to the corners of darkness, where all is hidden. The Law is a bright light. It shines on the sin, the shame, nothing is hidden.
Jesus loves the light. Not, though, as just the Law. The light is more than that. It’s the Gospel too. It’s the full Word of God, both the Law and the Gospel, the full declaration spoken from the mouth of God concerning the sinner.
It is, first, the Law, exposing our sin, shining on our sinful flesh until we finally admit there is nowhere to run from the Word of God, no hiding for the sinner.
But the Word of God is, chiefly, the Gospel, the light of Christ, the Son of God revealed to sinners as the One who has become sin on their behalf, publicly displayed as the One on the cross, bearing the sin of the world.
Jesus loves the light. It is the light of the Gospel. As John tells us, Jesus is, himself, the light who has come into the world—light overcoming darkness; life overcoming death; because, forgiveness has overcome our sin, so that we have nothing more to hide. It is his Word of Law exposing the sin we have kept in the darkness, so that we finally know our true condition before God, and we finally are ready for deliverance out of darkness. And it is—it is chiefly—his Word of Gospel, forgiving sin and bringing light and life to our dark world.
Jesus Delivers from Darkness to Light
For at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light 9 (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true), 10 discerning what is pleasing to the Lord. [EPHESIANS 5:8-14, OF THE EPISTLE FOR LENT 4]
This is pleasing to the Lord: to be done with the darkness, to be done with the hiding of the guilt, and to confess to our Lord. For he loves the light. Now we are given to look upon Jesus, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. He gathers us to his service where he joyfully serves to the sinner his Body and Blood for the forgiveness of sins. We hear his Gospel, and we know that in those words of grace, we are justified before God the Father and we have nothing to hide.
To walk as children of light is to live before God by repentance and the forgiveness of sins he speaks. Jesus brings us into this light. That which is kept in darkness, which is done in secret, he calls us out of that, gathering us into the light, into that which he has done in public and which he has preached to his people in public. He is the Light, and in his grace, he calls us into the congregation of his people:
When anything is exposed by the light, it becomes visible, 14 for anything that becomes visible is light. Therefore it says, “Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.”
In the Name of Jesus,
Rev. Warren W. Graff
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