“Ashley, don’t you know that even if you went out and did the worst thing you could possibly imagine doing, we would still welcome you back with open arms?”

I still remember vividly that my teacher said this while looking at me very intently, with conviction and tenderness; I remember feeling embarrassed, and I also remember fighting an intense urge to cry. I also remember getting very hot and clammy and leaving that meeting shaken to my core.

My sister and I were having a paper conference with our teacher to discuss a play we’d been working on, and I’d expressed my fear that the play had too depressing of an ending: all of the characters coming to “know themselves” and realizing they were irreparably selfish and broken. I suggested we add some small snippet of hope at the end, but our teacher thought it would feel too tacked on. “Besides, you’re telling this story to an audience of Christians; there’s nothing wrong with us sitting in the magnitude of our sin. If we understand grace, it only makes the play that much more meaningful and poignant. Right?”

I must have looked unconvinced, because he added, “Knowing the depths of our sin should not be a scary thing for us to face. Because we have grace; nothing can depress us regarding our own depravity if we understand what Jesus did for us.”

I remember starting to feel uncomfortable at that point, because I had a sudden prick of fear that a bomb was about to drop, and I wasn’t ready for it. And I was right. I wasn’t ready.

I think it’s because I hadn’t fully come to terms with the reality of the Gospel message.

The central message of the Gospel is that Jesus came to take away our sin; he came to rescue us and give us everlasting freedom and joy so that we can experience a relationship with him that makes every other relationship pale in comparison.

But the only way we can come to realize that what Jesus did was truly, insanely loving, is if we also come to terms with the reality that each of us is the worst of sinners. We are capable of any atrocious act of inhumanity that horrifies us to think about, and any delusions we might have about our goodness need to be undone. Knowing that we are capable of (or have already done) truly awful things, will help us to see that trying to “be good” is ultimately completely laughable and wildly crazy. We must realize that something that is broken can’t possibly fix itself.

After coming to this realization, we might be tempted to think that because we can and have fallen to the greatest depths of wickedness, we are also worthless; the radical message of Jesus is that this is not so. Not to God. To God, we are infinitely precious, even at our very worst. And that is why Jesus came. To save his precious children from the crippling brokenness of sin. Our sin, your sin, my sin. The sin we’ve already committed, the sin we’re committing now, and the sin we will commit in the future. He came to save us from all of it. He’s beckoning us to fall at his feet with it every time it threatens to overwhelm and consume us.

Fellow brothers and sisters, don’t you know that you can go out and do the worst thing you could possibly imagine (when you feel so disgusting that you can’t even breathe a word of prayer to God), and Jesus still says to you, “Come to me, [you] who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest” (Matt. 11:28-30)?

Ashley Carr

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