Message of Condemnation

6 Aug

Psalm 23:1, “The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.”

Christ is enough.  Yet the world will tell us that is not so.

Ephesians 1:6, “To the praise and glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved.”

Romans 8:1, “There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.”

In the book and play “Les Miserables” we find the protagonist Jean Valjean spending his life trying to atone for the fact that he stole some silverware from a bishop who gave him shelter on a journey.  Valjean is caught with the silverware not far from the bishop’s house, in the wee hours of the morning.  As the police accuse him of theft, the bishop comes out of the house and says that the silverware had been a gift and that Valjean had left in such haste that he forgot to take some silver candlesticks that had also been intended as gifts. After the police leave, the bishop tells Valjean to take the silver candlesticks to use for money to make himself an honest man.   With these words, the bishop, as Jean Valjean later says, “Bought my soul for God.”  The theology is not exactly Baptistic, but the analogy works.  The bishop had the right to press charges against Valjean but instead let him off the hook.  He offered him grace.

Then there is Javier, a state official.  He spends the entire play (his entire adult life) pursuing Jean Valjean for an earlier offense, the theft of a loaf of bread to feed his starving family.  While serving time for the bread theft and for earlier escape attempts, Valjean successfully escapes from a work crew, thus becoming a fugitive from justice.  It is at this point that he meets the bishop and his life is changed.  He spends the rest of the play working hard at an honorable trade and doing good to all he meets.  But Javier, who knows nothing of grace, pursues this man for a loaf of bread for the entire course of a nearly four hour play.

We all have a Javier in our lives.  I am convinced God sovereignly brings that person into our life to help us learn that we only need to please Him and to teach us to grow in the face of opposition.  Quite often, our Javier is a family member and we literally spend our entire life being pursued by that person and his or her accusations (for simplicity, I will just say “he” for the rest of this post, although Javiers seem equally split by gender between males and females).

I call what that person does to us a “message of condemnation.”  I earlier said that Christ is enough but the world will tell us that is not so.  Sometimes our Javier is actually another born again Christian, but is so attuned to the world’s system that he ends up preaching worldliness to us instead of Christ’s message of grace.

The human heart is made to wince when someone attacks us.  No amount of mental preparation for the attack seems to be able to divert the blow.  Unless we become totally hardened to what anyone thinks about us (in which case we would border on being a sociopath), we are going to wince, at least inwardly, each and every time our Javier comes up with one of his accusations against us.

But we can overcome this situation in Christ Jesus.  We probably won’t change our Javier.  And, frankly, his spiritual state is between him and God anyway.  There may be a time to speak clearcut truth to him about God’s grace and what it does for us.  But don’t be surprised if that is not received.  Some people just seem determined to be Javiers their entire life.  And, in a free country, they have that right.

What we need to do for ourselves is learn to “preach ourselves a sermon” (as my Presbyterian friends say).  The things our Javiers say to us can seem so, well, spiritual.  They might start with something like expressing concern for a family member of ours, something any concerned relative might do.  But the giveaway that we are dealing with a Javier is that always, embedded in their concern about our family or our house or our career or our schooling, is a barb.  Somehow they convey the idea that whatever concern they are talking about is all our fault!  No grace is offered.  Just a simple message of condemnation.  “You are a total screwup.”  It may not be said in words, but it is conveyed.

One additional thing that warrants a mention (it may be the main point of this entire post) is that our Javier is usually also skilled with some sort of radar that homes in on whatever it is that is most troubling our heart at that precise moment.  Our Javier will provide some of our deepest heartache this way as we will already be struggling with a situation, have our Javier somehow pick up on the internal conflict, and, suddenly, voila, not only are we heartbroken over our issue, but we have someone who seems to be using spiritual language to beat us over the head and say that the situation breaking our heart is all our fault!  Graceless, totally graceless.

And, just in case we are realizing at this point that we are all occasionally Javiers to each other (sad, but true), I will add here that the way to recognize our lifelong Javier is that this message from this person will never change.  It will be there, consistently, in every conversation we have with this person, all life long.

In fact, if we try to please this person and do whatever he says or implies we should do, we will immediately find the goalposts have been moved and he has a whole new area to criticize us.

You see, our Javier has taken on the project of “fixing us” so even if we follow his lead in an area (because he is not always wrong, after all), we will find he will just come up with more qualities in our life that he believes need to be fixed.

We can’t live that way and live in God’s grace at the same time.  We are constantly told in Scriptures that the fear of man brings a snare.  And we are told that we are accepted in the beloved and that there is now no condemnation for us, having put on Christ Jesus.

So, we have a few choices.

We can get defensive with our Javier and argue with everything he says.

We can walk away from him every time he starts on us.

We can change the subject.

We can start sharing about the beauty of God’s grace and how much the reality of it is invading our lives.

We will probably do some combination of the above.   But the main place to get to is the realization that Javier does what he does because he is Javier.  It has nothing to do with us, really, and needs to be treated appropriately.  We need to please the Lord, not our self-appointed warden.

Javier can only put us in prison if we agree to let him do so.  Jesus Christ gave us the silver candlesticks of His grace in order to free us from the prison of sin.  In Him we are totally free to live in His love!  We don’t have to hate Javier but we don’t have to let his opinion of us control us either.  We can let go of the message of condemnation.

Christ has accepted us in the beloved.  Believe that, beloved friend!

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