We don’t focus on garbage. We focus on Jesus. Garbage is not beautiful. It is not something to concentrate on. As a high school student I thought it must be holy to look at my sins, to say how bad I was, which only drew attention to the garbage. We become what we behold (2 Corinthians 3:18). Looking at Jesus brings healing and the power to overcome the garbage in our lives. Unconfessed sin that has been allowed to stay in our soul is gross, like the spaghetti in the back of the fridge that we forgot about–a month ago! Confessing sin and focusing on it are two different matters. Focusing on sin does not change us. The garbage is hidden in containers while in the house and placed in trash bins with a cover on them.
Take the upper hand. Don’t call yourself a sinner. You are a saint who sins. Identity drives behavior. My dad used to say to me often, “Remember who you are.” He said it long before Mufasa ever spoke it to Simba. He was establishing our identity so we could walk into our destiny. A skewed identity produces distorted behavior and an inferior destiny. We behave our beliefs, as my friend Kevin McClure says. We are what we think we are. The cross deals with the penalty, the power, and the presence of sin, but not all at once. Most of us know about how Jesus dealt with the penalty of sin on the cross–suffering and death. But He also dealt with its power, so Paul was able to write, “Sin shall have no power over you, because you are not under the law but under grace” (Romans 6:14). Romans 5-8 says nothing about forgiveness but a whole lot about freedom from sin. Believe it. However, sin is still present with us until the King returns. Then sin, death and the devil will be done with forever! Good riddance!
We have two big bins at our house, one for recycling, the other for garbage. We recycle things like cardboard and empty bottles and cans. We do not recycle food particles or used Kleenex or crumbs we sweep up from the floor. Not a lot of use for the spaghetti that is turning colors. Some people are recycling sin. They are dumping it on so-called friends rather than getting rid of it as James commands. Don’t treat your friends this way. Don’t pretend to be sharing important personal information, then dump a load of garbage on them. If you happen to have a compost pile, the month-old spaghetti can go there.
Unattended garbage is not pretty. I helped Israel clean out a duplex he owned. The people had left quickly without cleaning up. Food was left out. You could smell the chemistry as soon as you walked in the front door. We had the fun job of cleaning up after them. You may think that you want to take your time to forgive someone, like you don’t have to do it right away. Be careful: you will start smelling like that abandoned duplex. You are not realizing what lack of attention to forgiveness is doing to your insides. It is putrid.
The Gospel is the best way to handle garbage. We deal with two systems–mercy or merit, law or gospel, old covenant or new covenant. If you are saying, “I can’t just forgive them; that is letting them off the hook,” you need to know that you are operating under the law, not the gospel. Fairness is “an eye for an eye.” The gospel is Jesus from the cross saying, “Father, forgive them.” Jesus brought in a new culture. He said to the woman caught in adultery, “Neither do I condemn you. Go and sin no more.” That was radical. It is a totally different way of dealing with sin than under the old system, the system that most people in the world operate with–but not Christians, at least not those who want to live in the freedom of the gospel. We are not overcome by evil. We overcome evil with good (Romans 12:21).
Forgiveness is power! Learn to use it to keep your insides clean and to transform others.