You are hanging helplessly in the blazing sun, attached to a wooden crossbar with no hope of escape. You are bleeding, broken, tired and thirsty. Your body is clinging to life, but the more intense pain sears your spirit.
Because this is your punishment, and you know the punishment is just. Racked with guilt, you wish you could go back and make the right choice, instead of the one that condemned you to this fate. And as your breath becomes shallow, so does your hope. You have only too wait in despair for the end your crimes have sentenced you to.
But, in spite of the rap sheet that condemns you, the voice of love beckons from beside you, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise.”
Like the criminal that hung next to Jesus, we all have a rap sheet. We all have a list of charges against us that would put us in the criminal’s place. Whether it’s adultery, addiction, hatred, greed or envy, not a single one of us is immune.
The beauty of the grace of God is that you are not defined by your rap sheet.
The challenge of God’s grace is that it does not let you define anyone else that way, either.
See, Jesus loves the convict behind bars because he was first imprisoned by an addiction. He reaches out to the person on the street with nowhere to turn for food, clothing or shelter. He has dinner with the outcast whose lifestyle the “righteous” would never approve of.
He shares a drink of water with the prostitute. He offers an embrace to the man or woman ensnared by depression because they were broken by failure.
To the immigrant, the criminal, the grieving, the hopeless and depressed, he is the beacon of true freedom. There is no captive, no outcast that His love cannot reach.
And that goes for whatever imprisons you today, too.
The Psalmist writes: “The LORD sets the prisoners free; the LORD opens the eyes of the blind. The LORD lifts up those who are bowed down; the LORD loves the righteous.” (Psalm 146:7-8)
Whatever crimes the world uses to define you, Jesus’ death erased them. Whatever labels and stereotypes hold you captive, His resurrection holds the key to unlocking those prison doors. Whatever lies, whatever guilt, have left your heart in shackles, He blood is the pardon that sets you free.
So, instead of embracing your captivity today, embrace the love that has set you free from your chains.
And as you embrace the love that gives eternal life to the condemned, reach out with the same love to the captives languishing without hope, those in darkness who need His love most.
He did not define you by your rap sheet, but by the ransom found in His blood.
If we want to repair this broken world, let us begin to do the same for each other.
Daniel Kiewel is a proud Great Bend resident, blogger, running coach, the husband of an amazing wife, and the parent of a beautiful and busy two year old girl. He can be contacted at email@example.com.