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
You know the feeling of going out for a walk and getting a rock in your shoe. With each step you feel the irritation and pain. For a while you think that you can ignore the rock and keep on walking. But the longer you walk, the more the little stone cuts into your foot, and the more it hurts. Then you finally realize that the whole walk is spoiled unless you deal with the rock in your shoe. And you stop, take off your shoe, and remove the stone. Ah, that feels better!
Moral theologians of the Middle Ages wrote of certain people who were excessively anxious or uneasy about the pricking of their conscience. They were the people who would make confession time and again for the same sin. They kept feeling guilty about something they had already confessed. This hindered their whole Christian walk because they were always feeling guilty about something. The moral theologians called such people, scrupulous. This was a word that came from the Latin scrupus (“sharp stone”), a diminutive form which was scrupulus (“small sharp stone”). They were people who limped through life with a sharp stone in the shoe. And it hurt terribly. There was no joy.
I guess the reason I am writing about this is because I grew up feeling guilty. I seemed to think that a good Christian was one who was always feeling guilty about something. I could even feel guilty about not feeling guilty. Looking back on it now I realize that it was like walking with a sharp stone in my shoe. It always hurt and I walked with a limp.
Then I came across this magnificent text in I John that daily sets my heart at rest — whenever I begin to condemn myself I remind myself that God is “greater than our hearts” and he doesn’t condemn the believer. In fact, God went to the extravagant lengths of sending his own Son to the cross to deal with our guilt once and for all.
I love the way The Message translates these verses from I John. Ponder them:
This is the only way we’ll know we’re living truly, living in God’s reality. 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 know more about us than we do ourselves.
Once you’ve taken your sin to the Father and confessed it, then drop it. Don’t let the debilitating self-criticism shut you down any longer. Get the sharp stone out of your shoe and go on. Enjoy the walk!
Grace and peace,
photo by widdowquinn