The Bible has some fairly scary verses. Take your pick, from the commands to annihilate entire groups of people, to verses that reveal how deeply broken this world and people are (think of Herod’s command to kill all the baby boys under two years of age). When I was young there was a verse that absolutely terrified me, and it made a regular appearance.
I grew up in a fairly moralistic tradition. Don’t misunderstand, of course, it’s important to teach children how to make good and wise choices. Equip them with the knowledge and skills to speak and act in ways that they can be proud and not ashamed of. Words and deeds that reflect the values they were raised with, especially if we have raised them in Christian homes that are striving not only to honor God, but to spread his kingdom throughout the earth.
But sometimes the tactics used are less than constructive. One particular tactic was based on a portion of a verse from Numbers 32, “be sure your sins will find you out.” This threat/promise was used to remind us that nothing was truly hidden. Of course, God saw everything, we all knew that, but this verse was used to suggest to all of us that one day, everything would be revealed . . . to everyone.
The argument went like this: when we stand before God on the day of judgment, a movie of our life would play for all to see. Every last word and deed would be exposed. Friends, family, and strangers would witness it all. And not just the concrete actions, our very thoughts would be on display.
That is a terrifying thought. It certainly was to a teenage me, and, if I’m honest, a fully grown me too. It didn’t always help me make only the best choices, but it did make me afraid after some of the choices I made.
However, a friend recently laughed, heartily, at my fear of this idea. When his tears finally cleared enough to see my shocked expression, he composed himself to explain. “I get it,” he said. “But you’ll be standing by Jesus. Don’t you think he’ll say, ‘I got that covered.’?” “And,” he went on, “does it really seem like being with Jesus will lead to a feeling of fear and anxiety? He’s our Savior. I can’t imagine anything other than joy. Maybe,” he continued, “even sharing a deep and meaningful moment as you express gratitude that he has covered your sins.”
There may be a movie of my life when I die, my wife used to think there would be a library catalog of her life, a Dewey Decimal system of sins, but now I think of it differently. Every sinful word and deed (and yes, there will be many) will be an out-of-focus scene that gives Jesus the opportunity to stand up in front of my friends and family and say, “Sorry, folks. That part is covered by me.” Those parts of my life are still there, Jesus doesn’t erase those moments, as much as I wish I could. But he does cover them.
That verse used to scare me. And I think it was used to scare me. It doesn’t anymore. Now it just reminds me how grateful I am that Jesus came and for what he offers. Jesus doesn’t erase our past, and he doesn’t necessarily change our present, but he does promise forgiveness. He takes all that we did, and all that we wish we didn’t, and places them under his loving care, and the forgiveness he offers through his sacrifice.