This then is how we know that we belong to the truth, and how we set our hearts at rest in his presence whenever our hearts condemn us. For God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything.
I John 3:19-20
Remember when you were walking and got a rock in your shoe? You could feel the irritation of the rock with each step. You thought for a while you could just ignore the rock and keep walking. Then the longer you walked, the more the stone hurt. Finally, you’d had enough. You stopped, removed the stone, and went on. Ah, that felt good.
Theologians in the Middle Ages recognized that there were some people who were excessively anxious about their conscience. They would confess the same sin again and again, never getting any peace. This hindered them, sometimes crippling them in their walk with God. They were hurt by always feeling guilty.
Theologians then coined a name for such people: they called them scrupulous. It was a word they took from the Latin word for “sharp stone” (scrupus). The diminutive form was scrupulus, “small sharp stone”. It wasn’t a big stone hindering them, but a little stone that made them go through life with a limp.
The reason I am telling this is that I grew up always feeling guilty. I guess you could say that I was scrupulous. I must have thought that being good meant always feeling guilty. I could even feel guilty for not feeling guilty! I had no joy. I kept on limping with that little sharp stone.
Then one day I happened upon today’s text in I John. I saw there that God is “greater than our hearts” and he knows everything about us. But He doesn’t condemn. In fact, God went so far as to send His own Son to the cross to deal with our guilt, once and for all.
I like the way The Message renders today’s passage from I John:
It’s also the way to shut down debilitating self-criticism, even when there is something to it. For God is greater than our worried hearts and knows more about us than we do ourselves.
Yes, God is greater than my worried heart and yours. He forgives us. Once we’ve taken whatever we’ve done wrong to God, then we can drop it. We stop and take out the sharp stone and enjoy the walk.
Grace and peace,
photo by Rita Smith