“Did you hear about the mess that girl has gotten herself into? She has no respect for her parents, no respect for this congregation, and no respect for God. I cannot believe she can walk in here with that haughty look on her face while it is blatantly clear that she has to be at least five months pregnant by now.” As your friend is expressing her concerns about the troubled teen sitting a few rows ahead of you, your face grows hot, your stomach churns, and your heart is sinking for the teen as you remember the promiscuity you once knew. It could have been you in that pew when you were her age. You have spent most of your adult life hiding the sin that overtook you as a teen knowing that the sins of your youth have long been forgiven. Because of your past sins, you can look upon others with a certain compassion who may be struggling the same way you once did. You don’t discuss your former life however, because you do not want people to look upon you as they are now looking upon this young girl. You want so badly to go tell the girl that you struggled with sexual sin as a teen, and how your family, scriptures, prayer, and strong determination set your path back to God. But you sit, afraid to let another in to your dark, hidden past.
Think back on the story of the woman at the well in John 4. This woman was the ultimate sinner, an outcast, someone whom society had shunned. She came to draw water when the well was vacant so she wouldn’t have to hear the sneering about her lifestyle. She was utterly and hopelessly lost in sin until Jesus approached her and gave her hope. Upon hearing that he was the coming Messiah, she went back to her town and proclaimed, “Come, see a man who told me all that I have ever did. Can this be the Christ?” (John 4:29) People knew her, they knew her reputation, for some, even her coming into town and making a public statement was appalling, but notice what happened in verse 39, “Many Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, ‘He told me all that I ever did.’”
Do you think that this initial spark in believing Jesus was lit because people saw in this woman a likeness to themselves? Could some of them even be struggling with the same sin as she? Could they have been brought to know Christ because they saw the burden of her choices vanish from her face? She had been used as a tool to proclaim Christ even in her sinful state. The magnitude of his grace was fully felt by her, a sinner, and she used her past to proclaim Christ’s power. Are we doing the same? Are we acknowledging to others Christ’s power over the sin in our lives? Are we remembering the sins of our former selves and sharing them with others so that they too may receive the very same forgiveness we have been given? I am afraid all too often, we forget the sinner we used to be. We must remember why we needed a savior so we can always rely on Him. We must remember the feeling of being lost so we can keep the joy of being set free in our hearts and on our tongues.
Allow others to peer into the sinful life you once lead. You do not have to get into every detail, but you can confess that you once struggled with a particular sin, and even more so, how you broke free from it. This could be the very thing they need in order to be set free from their own sins: to see a Christian being renewed and transformed from a struggle that they now are facing.
We sometimes make Christianity look impossible to obtain. We make it look as if we have been perfect all our lives, not really knowing what “lost” is. We must confess to one another that we too, once were lost, and that now we have “received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life.” (1 Timothy 1:16)
Christ wants us to be an example. He wants us to leave our former lusts, all the while remembering it was He who saved us from these lusts. We must thank Him that through our sins He has judged us faithful, appointing us to His services (1 Timothy 1:12). He has seen past the rubbish of our past and given us a hope. We must use our past to restore others, just as the Samaritan woman, just as Paul, just as countless others have allowed their sinful pasts to be an example of what Christ can do. Let the past actions and guilt remain in the past when it comes to your former lifestyle, but don’t shut it out completely. Use it as a tool to share the Gospel of Christ. Remind yourself of why you needed a Savior. If we forget this vital need, we become foolish and prideful. We look at other sinners with arrogance, forgetting we too are sinners and in need of grace. “Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body, and be thankful” (Colossians 2:12, 15).
By Ashley Hudson
Ashley Hudson is a stay-at-home-mom with three children ages 9, 5, and 3. She and her family worship at the 7th and Beech Church of Christ in Durant, Oklahoma. Her husband, Jake, is the Campus Minister for the Student Bible Center at Southeastern Oklahoma State University. Be sure to check out her blog at www.hudsonfive.wordpress.com