Is It Healthy to Focus on our Sinfulness?
A handful of times in my life, I’ve laid prostrate before God in prayer. One time it was before a significant leadership decision. Another time was a moment of profound desperation during a crisis in my life. Most recently, after God showed up dramatically among us at a retreat, I snuck back into the meeting room in the middle of the night, laying prostrate before Him in gratitude for His goodness to us.
So many powerful images of the prostrate are found in Scripture…
- Moses face down in front of the burning bush;
- David pleading on his face for the life of his son after he’d been caught in adultery;
- Peter at Jesus’ feet saying, “Depart from me, I am a sinful man!”
- Mary weeping before Jesus because He had not come quickly enough to heal her brother;
- The desperate father begging Jesus to heal his son;
- Mary Magdalene clinging to the risen Lord;
- The heavenly hosts falling before the throne, crying, “Holy! Holy! Holy!”
We cannot help but fall before Him… in repentance. In reverence. In petition. In surrender. In worship.
This week as I was praying, however, Jesus suddenly got up and lay Himself prostrate before ME. I was instantly horrified. “Jesus—no! Get up!, “I said. “You can’t do that! I don’t deserve that.” I crouched down on the ground trying to pull on His arm to get up.
Jesus said nothing, but lay silently before me, His arms stretched out.
I sat back as the reality washed over me of seeing Jesus laying before me with His arms outstretched as if He was on the cross. And I realized anew how incredibly WRONG the cross was. We prostrate ourselves before someone to honor them, to surrender ourselves to them, to communicate our allegiance to them. How could Jesus lay Himself in surrender before ME?
If this most outrageous role reversal doesn’t startle you, then picture this: Jesus laying prostrate before an ISIS general, still plotting his next terrorist attack. Or a slimy sex trafficker taking an orphaned child and giving her to man to be raped. Picture Jesus stretched out prostrate before that person who embodies the worst of our humanity. Because He did just that. He died to redeem all sinners… even from the worst of sins.
So much is communicated in the posture of the cross… Humility. Vulnerability. Surrender. Love.
Tonight at sunset, the drums in our little Spanish pueblo will start begin their ominous pounding in an all night vigil marking the trial and sentencing of Jesus. Tomorrow, on Good Friday, the people will cheer and throw rose petals on His body on the cross as He passes by. These three days, the collective Christian community will sit together in a vigil awaiting our Sunday morning miracle.
These are the days we are invited to sit at the foot of cross and get in touch with our sinfulness. And in our modern, psychology heavy society, we ask ourselves, “Is that really a good idea?” Many would tell us it’s not healthy to reflect on your sin…we have nothing to apologize for– we’re all broken people.
How wrong they are. As Christians we are invited to sit at the cross in repentance and grief— not condemnation and shame. Sitting in our sin is not our END goal; it is merely the means through which we experience the deep love of God.
When the sinful woman fell at the feet of Jesus weeping and wiping His feet with her hair, Jesus didn’t give her a message of “cheap grace.” He didn’t say, “I know you’ve been exploited in your life (she most likely was). I know you are a broken person. Don’t dwell on that. I see why you made those choices. There is nothing to apologize for; we’re all broken.”
Instead, Jesus let her get in touch with her sin. He allowed the ugliness of her brokenness to surface and to break her heart. Not in order for her to ‘learn her lesson’, but for her to experience His great love. He saw it ALL and loved her anyway. And in acknowledging her sin, an extravagant waterfall of grace was released into her life, cleansing her and setting her free. Would she still be scorned and rejected by the society around her because of her past? Probably. But internally- she was FREE. Facing that sin, and laying it before Jesus, He wiped the slate clean. And in that moment, she learned how valuable she was to her Creator.
May I invite you to take some time to sit at the foot of the cross this weekend? Grieve your apathy and dead heart. Grieve your stiff-neckedness. Grieve your running after worthless idols… money, security, the approval of others, comfort, pleasure, and control. Grieve your unbelief that God could free you from addiction or self-absorption or bitterness. Let God’s Spirit show you what He wants you to confess and let it break your heart.
This is necessary for us to change because in sitting with our sin before the cross, we experience more deeply His lavish, crazy, unconditional love and acceptance. Our sin begins to diminish in the light of His magnificent love. We can then begin to stand on the truth that not only does God “remember us not according to our sin and rebellion , but according to His unfailing love…” (Psalm 25:7), but I start to remember myself through the lens of His unfailing love as well. Because a healed sense of self that modern psychology promises is not possible without the acknowledgement of the whole truth– I am sinful AND I am unconditionally loved by my Creator.
And then, on Easter morning, we will find ourselves like Mary Magladene, prostrate before Him, and clinging to His feet, in worship and adoration for the incredible gift of His love.
“Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven—as her great love has shown. But whoever has been forgiven little loves little.” (Luke 7:47)