In accepting the truth that God’s love is greater than our sins, we are set free to become the people he wants us to be.
Jesus came among us, in the flesh, to redeem us, to free us from our slavery to sin. He came to be the light that would lead us out of the darkness and death of our sinful habits. John tells us that, “…through him was life, and this life was the light of the human race; the light [that] shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it” (Jn. 1:4-5). He came for the forgiveness of sins, to reunite us with him, and to open the gates of heaven to us again. He accomplished this through his blood by dying on the cross for us.
Jesus tells us directly that he is, “the way, and the truth and the life” (Jn. 14:6). The truth is that we are sinners and he is the way, his word is the truth that leads us out of the darkness of our sins into a life that is full and eternal. He reinforces this when he tells those who believe in him, “If you remain in my word, you will truly be my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (Jn. 8: 31-32). The truth is that I am a sinner in great need of God’s love and mercy. It is in knowing this that I am set free. Now, if you are anything like me, you might recognize that, even though I love Jesus and see the wisdom of his word, I sometimes still fail to remain in his word. I fall down. I sin, mostly in small ways, but though small, they are still dangerous for my soul. But God never turns his back on me. He is always there, always ready, when I turn back to him in my need for his forgiveness. He never fails to forgive and always gives me the graces I need to get up and continue the journey toward him.
On the other hand, “If we say, ‘We are without sin,’ we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we acknowledge our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive our sins and cleanse us from every wrongdoing. If we say, ‘We have not sinned,’ we make him a liar, and his word is not in us” (1 Jn. 1:8-10).
Only those who recognize that they are sinners are capable of seeing their absolute need for God’s forgiving love. Only those who truly come to recognize their own faults and failings, and own up to them, are capable of changing their old habits of fear and doubt to new habits of courage and faith that lead to true freedom from the internal oppression of temptation and sin. The first words that Jesus utters in Mark’s Gospel are a call to conversion: “The kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news” (Mk. 1:15).
What is conversion then? It is a turning away from the darkness of sin, to the light of life. While the conversion experience can be a sudden and dramatic event, it is only the beginning of a long and continuing process. It is a turning, a pivot away from one thing to another. It is a shifting of one’s whole self, mind, body, and soul, to Jesus, and turning one’s back on everything else. This means giving the cold shoulder to everything that is opposed to Christ, which is to say everything that is sinful, in ourselves, in others, and in the fallen world. It is a promise never to take our eyes off of Jesus, who is the light of life, our guide, our redeemer. This is not an easy thing. It is a daily challenge. It needs continuous tending. This effort requires the development of virtuous habits like prudence, temperance, justice, courage, faith, hope, and love. But in humbly and willingly turning to God and away from all that is sin in ourselves, others, and in the world, God’s manifold graces are freely given to us to encourage and to strengthen us all along the way.
It is in listening to and reading scripture, in praying over it and believing in God’s word that we come to know “the truth that sets us free” from the bondage of our sinful habits. We can find one of the surest statements of this truth in Romans 5:8, “God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Yes, we are sinners. But in accepting the truth that God’s love is greater than our sins, we are set free to become the people he wants us to be. And he will be with us giving us his graces all along our long journey back home to him.SKM: below-content placeholder