“Nah, I’m good thanks… If people knew what I’d done they wouldn’t accept me. The church would probably fall down if I walked in.”
If you have been away from faith, God or church for a while, you can probably connect with that statement above. The truth is though you’re not alone. Everyone has done things that we’re ashamed of, that went against our gut feeling of right and wrong, things we’d take back if we could, change if we could, rewind if we could, but it’s simply too late. We’ve stuffed up. The bible calls it ‘sin’, and don’t worry, we’ve all done it. Welcome to the club of the imperfect! (Romans 3:23)
If this is you we have some good news – no, GREAT news. There IS a way to start again, to make things right, to regain purity, to get healing. It all happened in a scene on a hill 2000 years ago when God decided he’d take the rap for all the things you’ve ever done; when a man called Jesus Christ took the sins of the world upon his shoulders and died on a cross to give you and me a fresh start.
‘How does that work’? you might be asking. ‘What’s that called’? It’s called forgiveness, where for no reason the punishment you’re expecting is suddenly lifted. It’s called mercy, where instead of Gods hand lifted in anger you find the open arms of a loving Father. It’s called salvation, because God has rescued us from the consequences of our sins, something we couldn’t do ourselves or be ‘good enough’ to deserve. It’s about Grace, which means it’s a ‘free gift’ of God. Bring it on!
But when the kindness and love of God our Saviour appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. – Titus 3:4-5
‘OK so how do I tap into this? How do I make the guilt go away?’ you may be asking. Great question.
The first thing to do is find a quiet place to talk to God. It may be on the bus with your eyes closed or in your room alone at home. In your heart tell God you’re sorry and ask for forgiveness. Use a prayer like this one below or make one up in your own words:
Dear Jesus, I know I’ve messed up. I’m really sorry . Please forgive me, especially for….Thank you Lord for your love and your mercy. Help me to get back on track and do what I know is right, with your help of your Spirit. Amen.
The second thing to do, as soon as you’re able, is find a priest you feel comfortable with and ask for a chat. If you’re Catholic, this is a chance to go to confession, or the Sacrament of Reconciliation (‘Reco’ for short). Reconciliation is a gift available through the Church where we can experience the forgiveness and grace of Jesus in an even more personal and deeper way than is possible by ourselves.
Let the priest know if you’ve never done this before (or if it’s been a long time) and ask them to walk you through it. Basically you start by sharing out loud the things you are sorry for (confess). The priest might chat with you about it for a while and let you get it all off your chest. Finally he places his hands on your head and in Jesus’ name ‘absolves’ your sins, once and for all. ‘Kaput’. Done with. Moving on. Freedom!
The third thing to do is to ‘make things right’; something the Church calls Penance. It could be something simple to show God that we want to make an effort not to fall into the same old pattern all over again. “I don’t condemn you” Jesus said to the woman caught in adultery. Then he added “Go and sin no more”. When we sin we usually don’t just hurt ourselves, but other people as well. So reconciling with God also means making up with the other people in our lives, because God lives inside them as well. As Jesus taught,
Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us. (the ‘Our Father’ – Math 6:9-14)
Hmm. So true freedom and peace will be ours if we forgive others and extend the mercy we’ve received? Now that’s a radical concept. Could even change the world.
Go do it!