Christ and the Human Condition

The Passion of the Christ

Dr. Michael Gleghorn looks at how God has acted in Christ to address those things which ail us most: sin, suffering, death, and our broken relationship with God.

Download the PodcastEarly in the book of Job, Eliphaz the Temanite declares that “man is born for trouble, as sparks fly upward” (5:7). Whether it’s the trouble that befalls us as we’re simply minding our own business or the trouble we bring upon others (or even ourselves), difficulties, sin, and suffering seem to plague us wherever we turn. Just think for a moment about some of the natural evils which afflict the human race. This class of evils includes both natural disasters like hurricanes, tsunamis, tornadoes, and earthquakes, and diseases like cancer, leukemia, Alzheimer’s and ALS. While natural evils are bad enough, they are only part of the problem. In addition to these, we must also consider all the moral evils which human beings commit against God, one another, and themselves. This second class of evils includes things like hatred, blasphemy, murder, rape, child abuse, terrorism, and suicide. Taken together, the scope and magnitude of human sin and suffering in the world are truly mind-boggling. What does God have to say about issues such as these? Even better, what (if anything) has He done about them?

The Christian philosopher Alvin Plantinga has written

As the Christian sees things, God does not stand idly by, cooly observing the suffering of His creatures. He enters into and shares our suffering. He endures the anguish of seeing his son, the second person of the Trinity, consigned to the bitterly cruel and shameful death of the cross. Some theologians claim that God cannot suffer. I believe they are wrong. God’s capacity for suffering, I believe, is proportional to his greatness; it exceeds our capacity for suffering in the same measure as his capacity for knowledge exceeds ours. Christ was prepared to endure the agonies of hell itself; and God, the Lord of the universe, was prepared to endure the suffering consequent upon his son’s humiliation and death. He was prepared to accept this suffering in order to overcome sin, and death, and the evils that afflict our world, and to confer on us a life more glorious than we can imagine.{1}

According to Plantinga, then, God has acted, and acted decisively through His Son, to address those things which ail us most—sin, suffering, death, and our broken relationship with God. In what follows, we will briefly examine each of these ailments. More importantly, however, we will also see how God has acted in Christ to heal our bleak condition, thereby giving us encouragement, strength and hope, both now and forevermore.

Moral Evil

When Adam and Eve first sinned in the garden (Gen. 3:6), they could hardly have imagined all the tragic consequences that would follow this single act of disobedience. Through this act, sin and death entered the world and the human condition was radically altered (Rom. 5:12-19). Human nature had become defiled with sin and this sinful nature was bequeathed to all mankind. The human race was now morally corrupt, alienated from God and one another, subject to physical death, and under the wrath of God. The entire creation, originally pronounced “very good” by God (Gen. 1:31), was negatively affected by this first act of rebellion. Like the ripples that radiate outward when a stone is thrown into a calm body of water, the consequences of that first sin have rippled through history, bringing evil, pain, and suffering in their wake. As the Christian philosopher William Lane Craig has noted, “The terrible human evils in the world are testimony to man’s depravity in his state of spiritual alienation from God.”{2} Indeed, we are so hopelessly entangled in this web of sin and disobedience that we cannot possibly extricate ourselves. This, according to the Bible, is the sorry plight in which all men naturally find themselves.

Fortunately for us, however, God has acted to free us from our enslavement to sin, to disentangle us from the web that holds us captive, and to reconcile us to Himself. He did this by sending His Son to so thoroughly identify with us in our painful predicament that He actually became one of us. By identifying Himself with sinners who were under the wrath of God, He was able to take our sins upon Himself and endure God’s wrath in our place, so that we might be reconciled to God by placing our trust in Him. The apostle Paul put it this way: God made Christ “who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Cor. 5:21).

In the Old Testament book of Deuteronomy, we’re told that anyone hanged on a tree because of their sins is “accursed of God” (21:23). In the New Testament, Paul picks up on this idea and says that through His substitutionary death on the cross, Christ became “a curse for us” (Gal. 3:13). We should not lose sight of the significance of these words. By identifying Himself with the guilty human race, and becoming a curse for us, He has opened the way for us to be freed from our sins and reconciled to God as we are identified with Him through faith. This is just one of the ways in which Christ has met the desperate needs of the human condition.

Natural Evil

Another reason why we suffer arises from what philosophers and theologians call natural evil. Natural evil refers to all the causes of human pain and suffering which are not brought about by morally-responsible agents. This would include the pain and suffering arising from natural disasters like earthquakes, famines, and storms, as well as diseases like cancer and ALS.

Now the question I want to pose is this: Is there a sense in which Christ is also a solution to the problem of natural evil? And if so, then how should we understand this? When we examine the life and ministry of Jesus as it’s recorded in the Gospels, we can hardly help but be struck by the number of miracles He performs. He walks on water, calms raging storms, feeds thousands of people with a few loaves and fish, cleanses lepers, heals the sick, restores sight to the blind, and even raises the dead! Although some might demur at all these accounts of miracles, Craig has noted that “the miracle stories are so widely represented in all strata of the Gospel traditions that it would be fatuous to regard them as not rooted in the life of Jesus.”{3}

So what is the significance of Jesus’ miracles? According to New Testament scholar Ben Witherington, Jesus’ miracles show him to be God’s special agent of blessing, healing, liberation, and salvation, as well as the “one who brings about the conditions associated with the final . . . dominion of God.”{4} Since the kingdom of God is portrayed in Scripture as a reign of peace, prosperity, health, well-being and blessing, Jesus’ miracles of healing, as well as his demonstrations of power over nature, indicate that He is indeed capable of ushering in such a wonderful kingdom.{5} And if Jesus has the power to bring in an era of health and well-being, both for our physical bodies and for the physical universe, and if he in fact will do so, then he clearly provides a solution to the problem of natural evil. Ultimately, in the new heaven and new earth, which God will give to those who love Him, we are promised that there “will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away” (Rev. 21:4).

Physical Death

The apostle Paul, in his first letter to the Corinthians, described death as an “enemy” (1 Cor. 15:26). People fear death for any number of reasons. Some fear that the process of dying will be painful. Others dread the thought of leaving behind the ones they love. Some may fear that death is simply the end, that whatever joys and pleasures this life holds, death takes them away forever. But others may fear that there is an afterlife and worry that things may not go well for them there. For many people, however, death is feared as the great unknown.{6} Friends and relatives die and we never see or hear from them again. For these people, death is like the ultimate black-hole, from which nothing and no one can ever escape.

But according to the Bible, Christ did escape the snares of death, and in doing so He dealt our mortal enemy a mortal blow of his own. I said that Paul describes death as an “enemy,” but this is simply to inform us of the fact that our enemy has been conquered by Christ. “The last enemy that will be abolished,” he writes, “is death” (1 Cor. 15:26). But how has Christ conquered this enemy? And how does His victory help us?

Christ conquered death through his resurrection from the dead and all who put their trust in Him can share in his victory. Pastor Erwin Lutzer has written:

Thus the resurrection of Jesus is the cornerstone of the Christian faith. Standing at the empty tomb, we are assured of the triumph of Jesus on the Cross; we are also assured that He has conquered our most fearsome enemy. Yes, death can still terrify us, but the more we know about Jesus, the more its power fades.{7}

Consider the life and death of the great Reformation theologian Martin Luther. As a young Augustinian monk, Luther struggled with a very sensitive conscience and a terrible fear of death. But once he understood the gospel and placed his trust in Christ, his fear gradually began to fade. By the time he died, his fear was gone. It’s reported that on his deathbed, he recited some promises from the Bible, commended his spirit to God, and quietly breathed his last.{8} Believing that Christ had conquered death and given him eternal life, he was able to die at peace and without any fear. And this is the hope of all who trust in Christ!

The Weight of Glory

Christian theologians sometimes describe the knowledge of God as “an incommensurable good.”{9} By this they mean that knowing God in an intimate, personal way is quite literally the greatest good that any created being can experience. It is an “incommensurable” or “immeasurable” good—a good so great that it surpasses our ability even to comprehend. The apostle Paul once prayed that the Ephesians might “know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge” (Eph. 3:19). He understood that “intimate relationship with God . . . is incommensurately good-for created persons.”{10}

Of course, this doesn’t mean that one who is intimately related to God will never experience any of the trials and difficulties of life. In fact, it’s possible that such a person will actually experience more trials and difficulties than would have been the case had they not been intimately related to God! Knowing the love of Christ doesn’t make one immune to suffering. It does, however, provide indescribable comfort while going through it (see 2 Cor. 1:3-5).

The apostle Paul understood this quite well. In his second letter to the Corinthians, he described himself as a servant of God who had suffered afflictions, hardships, beatings, imprisonments, labors, sleeplessness, and hunger (2 Cor. 6:4-5). In spite of this, however, he did not lose heart. He famously wrote that “momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison” (2 Cor. 4:17).

But how could Paul describe his sufferings as just a “momentary, light affliction”? Because, says Craig, he had an eternal perspective. “He understood that the length of this life, being finite, is literally infinitesimal in comparison with the eternal life we shall spend with God.”{11}

The greatest hunger of the human heart is to know and experience the love and acceptance of God and to enjoy Him forever. In his magnificent sermon “The Weight of Glory,” C.S. Lewis wrote, “In the end that Face which is the delight or . . . terror of the universe must be turned upon each of us either with one expression or . . . the other, either conferring glory inexpressible or inflicting shame that can never be . . . disguised.”{12} Incredibly, just as Christ has dealt with the problems of sin, suffering, and death, He has also acted decisively to reconcile us to God. Through faith in him, anyone who wants can eventually experience “an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison” (2 Cor. 4:17).

Notes

2. Craig, Hard Questions, Real Answers, 96-97.
3. William Lane Craig, Reasonable Faith: Christian Truth and Apologetics, 3rd ed. (Wheaton: Crossway Books, 2008), 324.
4. Ben Witherington, The Christology of Jesus (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1990), 43-44.
5. Some biblical passages that pertain to Christ’s coming kingdom are Isaiah 11:1-9, Matthew 19:28, and Acts 3:19-21.
6. I was reminded of many of these examples while watching the round table discussion on suffering and death in Catherine Tatge, “The Question of God: Sigmund Freud and C.S. Lewis” (U.S.A.: PBS Home Video, 2004).
7. Erwin W. Lutzer, The Vanishing Power of Death (Chicago: Moody Publishers, 2004), 13.
8. Mike Fearon, Martin Luther (Minneapolis: Bethany House Publishers, 1986), 157-58.
9. See, for example, Craig, Hard Questions, Real Answers, 100.
10. Marilyn McCord Adams, Christ and Horrors: The Coherence of Christology (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2006), 47.
11. Craig, Hard Questions, Real Answers, 99.
12. C.S. Lewis, “The Weight of Glory,” in The Weight of Glory and Other Addresses, ed. Walter Hooper (New York: Macmillan Publishing Co., 1980), 13.

© 2009 Probe Ministries


“Is Eating Pork a Sin?”

Is eating pork a sin? It was mentioned to me by a friend that eating pork is forbidden and he said that Bible says that you won’t go to heaven if you eat pork. Didn’t Jesus say that what makes the person dirty is what comes out from his mouth and not the food that he takes in? Please give me some supporting verses on your response.

It is true that under the terms of the Mosaic Law given to Israel, pork was forbidden. However, God is no longer relating to mankind under the terms of this covenant. Rather, we are under the terms of the New Covenant (see Hebrews 8, for instance). Under the New Covenant, pork is no longer forbidden. Indeed, in Mark 7:14-23, Jesus clearly declares that all foods are clean. The same thing is affirmed by the Apostle Paul in Romans 14.

Bottom line, you can eat as much sausage, bacon, and pork chops as you like!

Shalom,

Michael Gleghorn
Probe Ministries


M.I.T. Dean’s Pants on Fire

George Washington, call your agent. America needs your “I cannot tell a lie” message. A national lecture circuit slot just became available.

A popular dean at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology has resigned after admitting resume padding and living a 28-year lie. Ouch. Her sad story is filled with irony—lots of fresh material for your speeches.

Marilee Jones says, “I have resigned as MIT’s Dean of Admissions because very regrettably, I misled the Institute about my academic credentials. I misrepresented my academic degrees when I first applied to MIT 28 years ago and did not have the courage to correct my resume when I applied for my current job or at any time since.

“I am deeply sorry for this,” she continues, “and for disappointing so many in the MIT community and beyond who supported me, believed in me, and who have given me extraordinary opportunities.” {1}

The Boston Globe reports that her resume claimed degrees from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and two other New York institutions, but that she has degrees from none of them. RPI says she attended as a part-time student for about nine months but earned no degree. The other two say they have no record of her attending.{2}

Ironically, as The New York Times notes, Jones was widely admired, almost revered, for her humor, outspokenness and common sense. {3} She had won prestigious MIT awards{4} and earned a national reputation as a champion for reducing college admissions pressure on students and parents.

It gets worse. She coauthored the book, Less Stress, More Success: A New Approach to Guiding Your Teen Through College Admissions and Beyond. On integrity, it says, “Holding integrity is sometimes very hard to do because the temptation may be to cheat or cut corners. But just remember that what goes around comes around, meaning that life has a funny way of giving back what you put out.” {5}

Doesn’t it.

Lots of people lie. Some get caught. The US military reportedly distorted Pat Tillman’s and Jessica Lynch’s stories, allegedly to boost war efforts. Enron executives cooked books for personal gain.

Employees falsify expense accounts or call in sick. Kids disavow breaking windows. Adults tell fish stories. Wandering spouses work late at the office.

Distorting the truth can bring esteem, opportunity, money, thrills. One innocent lie can require cover-ups. Soon the web becomes complex.

We’ve all made mistakes. As a teen, I valued my reputation for honesty but made some poor choices, lied about them, and nearly was expelled from school. My confronters forgave me and offered me another chance. The episode helped point me to personal faith. I learned that Moses, the great Jewish liberator, warned his compatriots against violating divine prescription: “Be sure your sin will find you out.”{6}

Mine found me out. Marilee Jones deceit found her out, as readers from The Times of London to The Times of India now know.

Jones likely needs privacy—as she has requested—plus good friends, close counsel, and lots of prayers. Perhaps, after recovery, she can help others resist similar temptations.

So, President Washington, what lessons from this episode will your lecture tour emphasize? How about these: Tell the truth. It may be painful but it’s the right thing to do. It’s easier to remember. You’ll sleep better and enhance society.

Pack your saddle bags, Mr. President. Crank up the PowerPoint. Be sure to include a Pinocchio cartoon and some slides of cherry trees.

Oh, but sir, we understand that the cherry tree story might be mere legend. We suggest you explain that to your audiences and give plenty of real-life illustrations.

Notes

1. Statement by Marilee Jones, MIT News, April 26, 2007, web.mit.edu/newsoffice/2007/admissions-jones.html, accessed April 27, 2007.
2. Marcella Bombardieri and Tracy Jan, MIT dean quits over fabricated credentials, The Boston Globe, April 27, 2007, tinyurl.com/3ynyhv, accessed April 27, 2007.
3. Tamar Lewin, “Dean at M.I.T. Resigns, Ending a 28-Year Lie,” The New York Times, April 27, 2007, www.nytimes.com/2007/04/27/us/27mit.html?hp, accessed April 27, 2007.
4. MIT Admissions Web site profile, www.mitadmissions.org/Marilee.shtml, accessed April 27, 2007.
5. Lewin, loc. cit.
6. Numbers 32:23 NASB.

© 2007 Rusty Wright


“What Caused Lucifer (Satan) to Fall?”

What caused Lucifer to sin? He didn’t eat of any tree so he would inherit sin nature or knowledge of evil. Did Lucifer have knowledge of good and evil when God created him, unlike Adam who got the knowledge after eating the fruit? And one more thing: Did Adam sin after eating the fruit or by eating the fruit?

Thanks for your letter. The question about what caused the fall of Satan is a difficult one. In 1 Timothy 3:6, Paul seems to indicate that the sin of the devil was pride or conceit. Although the passage is debated, some conservative scholars believe that Ezekiel 28:11-19 may describe the fall of the devil. The section is addressed to the “king” of Tyre. Notice some of the things which are said in this passage. This “king” is said to have been “in Eden” (v. 13). He is called a “cherub” (a type of angel) in vv. 14, 16. He is described as “blameless” from the day of his creation, until he sinned (vv. 15-16). His sin seems to have been that of pride or conceit (v. 17). All of these descriptions are consistent with the “king” being Satan.

However, other scholars believe that Ezekiel is just using hyperbolic language to describe the arrogance of the human ruler of Tyre. Everyone agrees that the human ruler is in view in vv. 1-10. The question concerns the referent in vv. 11-19.

We are simply not told whether Satan had any knowledge of good and evil before his fall into sin. However, until his sin, he could not have had any experiential knowledge of evil because he was created perfect and holy.

God’s prohibition against eating from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil occurs in Genesis 2:16-17. There Adam is told “in the day that you eat from it you shall surely die” (v. 17). As we read chapter 3, the sin seems to take place upon eating from the tree. It is this act which violated God’s prohibition. This seems clear to me from verses like 3:7, 11, 17.

Hope this is helpful.

Shalom in Christ,

Michael Gleghorn

© 2008 Probe Ministries


“Did Jesus Have a Sinful Nature?”

Did Jesus have a sinful nature? It is clear that he did not sin, but he was 100% human. Is it that he did not choose to sin but it was possible for him to do so? If the answer is yes, would this imply that we are being punished for the sins that we do and not just because we have a sinful nature?

Hello _______,

Thanks for your question. No; Jesus did not have a sinful nature. It’s true that He was fully human, but like Adam before the Fall, His humanity was not in any way tainted with sin. Whether it was possible for Jesus to have sinned or not is a matter of debate. I do not think it was possible for Jesus to sin, for Jesus was not only fully human, He was also fully God and God cannot sin.

As believers, God does discipline us (and this can certainly be painful at times) as we learn in Hebrews 12:4-11. And yes, the Lord does discipline us for the things that we do, and not just because we have a sinful nature. Of course, it’s important to remember that the Lord is very gracious and patient with us as well. But He will also discipline us out of love and in order to help conform us to the image of His Son.

Shalom in Christ,
Michael Gleghorn

© 2007 Probe Ministries


“Is My Husband’s Cybersex Grounds For Divorce?”

My husband has been having cyber sex. Sometimes there was a camera on the other end. Is this biblical grounds for divorce?

Dear ________,

I am so sorry. What a horrible betrayal you are feeling!

I don’t know God’s definitive answer on this, but I do think that cyber sex and webcams are high-tech ways of extending the sins of lust and fantasy, which are mental and emotional sins . . . but I don’t believe they cross the line of adultery. Actual sex between two people has an effect of creating soul-ties to each other that compromises the marriage covenant.

I think the bigger issue is one of hard-heartedness. If you have asked your husband not to engage in cyber sex and to get rid of the camera, and he refuses because he wants what he wants even if it means hurting you, then that’s the real issue. What kind of marriage is it if one person makes self-centered choices that insure the other will be hurt?

May I respectfully suggest you read Drs. John Townsend and Henry Cloud’s excellent book Boundaries in Marriage for some wisdom on what to do next. For example, I have a friend whose husband refuses to stop going to a website where he can play games and chat with other women, and he has fallen into at least emotional affairs with a couple of them. She has said, “As long as you won’t get rid of Pogo, you can do your own laundry.” This way, his stubbornness and selfishness are costing him something.

Hope you find this helpful. Again, I am so sorry. My heart hurts for you.

Sue Bohlin

© 2007 Probe Ministries


South African Apartheid Leaders Apology for Racial Sins

Could the world use a bit more contrition, forgiveness and reconciliation?

Recent international news reports brought a startling example of contrition by Adriaan Vlok, former Law and Order Minister under South Africa’s apartheid regime.

Robert Enright is an educational psychology professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and president of the International Forgiveness Institute. He laments the fact that despite society’s conflicts, “almost never do we hear public leaders declaring their belief that forgiveness can being people together, heal their wounds, and alleviate the bitterness and resentment caused by wrongdoing.” {1}

Here’s an exception.

During the 1980s, conflict raged between South Africa’s white minority Afrikaner government and the black majority opposition. One former African National Congress operative—now a government official—told me over breakfast in Cape Town that his responsibilities back then had been “to create chaos.” Mutual hostility and animosity often reigned.

Bombing Campaign

In 1998, Adriaan Vlok confessed to South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission that in 1988 he had engineered the bombing of the headquarters of the South African Council of Churches, a prominent opposition group. The bombing campaign also included movie theaters showing “Cry Freedom,” an anti-apartheid film. {2}

I had tickets to see “Cry Freedom” in Pretoria for opening night, but the screening was cancelled. The next morning, a bomb was discovered in the theater I would have attended.

You might imagine my interest when BBC television told of Vlok’s recent attempt to reconcile personally with Rev. Frank Chikane, former head of the South African Council of Churches, the group whose headquarters Vlok had bombed. Chikane, now director general of the South African president’s office, reports that Vlok visited his office and gave him a Bible with these words inscribed: “I have sinned against the Lord and against you, please forgive me (John 13:15).”

An Example to Follow?

That biblical reference is Jesus’ Last Supper admonition that his disciples follow his example and wash one another’s feet. The inscription’s words echo those of the Prodigal Son who in the famous biblical story returns home after squandering his inheritance, hopes his father will accept him as a hired hand, and says, “I have sinned against heaven and against you.” {3} The father rejoices over his return, warmly receives him as son, and throws a welcome celebration.

Chikane tells what Vlok did next: “He picked up a glass of water, opened his bag, pulled out a bowl, put the water in the bowl, took out the towel, said ‘you must allow me to do this’ and washed my feet in my office.” Chikane gratefully accepted the gesture. {4}

Vlok, a born-again Christian, later told BBC television it was time “to go to my neighbor, to the person that I’ve wronged.” He says he and his compatriots should “climb down from the throne on which we have been sitting and say to people, ‘Look, I’m sorry. I regarded myself as better than you are. I think it is time to get rid of my egoism my sense of importance, my sense of superiority.’” {5}

Startling contrition, indeed.

Forgiveness Components

The late and renowned ethicist Lewis Smedes stressed three components of forgiving others: “First, we surrender our right to get even…. Second, we rediscover the humanity of our wrongdoer…that the person who wronged us is a complex, weak, confused, fragile person, not all that different from us…. And third, we wish our wrongdoer well.” {6}

Former U.S. Senator Alan Simpson has quipped that those in Washington, DC traveling “the high road of humility” won’t encounter “heavy traffic.” {7} Too often the same holds in workplaces, neighborhoods and families. Could Vlok’s example inspire some changes?

Notes

1. Gary Thomas, “The Forgiveness Factor,” Christianity Today, January 10, 2000, 38.
2. “Botha implicated in Church bombing,” BBC News online, July 21, 1998; news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/africa/136504.stm; accessed September 3, 2006.
3. Luke 15:21 NIV.
4. “Feet washed in apartheid apology,” BBC News online, 28 August 2006; news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/africa/5292302.stm; accessed September 3, 2006.
5. “Minister atones for race sins,” BBC News video, 3 September 2006; http://tinyurl.com/g899l; accessed October 4, 2006.
6. Lewis B. Smedes, “Keys to Forgiving,” Christianity Today, December 3, 2001, 73; www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2001/015/42.73.html.
7. Harry Kreisler, “Let ‘er Rip! Reflections of a Rocky Mountain Senator: Conversation with Alan K. Simpson, Former U.S. Senator, Wyoming,” Conversations with History, Institute of International Studies, University of California-Berkeley, September 17, 1997; globetrotter.berkeley.edu/conversations/Simpson/simpson1.html; accessed October 2, 2006.

© 2006 Rusty Wright


Crime and Punishment – A Christian View of Dostoevsky’s Classic Novel

Michael Gleghorn looks at the famous novel through a Christian worldview lens to see what truths Dostoevsky may have for us.  We learn that this great novel records the fall of man into a degraded state but ends with the beginning of his restoration through the ministry of a selfless, Christian woman.

Introduction and Overview

In 1866 the Russian novelist Fyodor Dostoevsky published Crime and Punishment, one of his greatest novels. It’s a penetrating study of the psychology of sin, guilt, and redemption, and it haunts the reader long after the final page has been read. It tells the story of an intelligent, but impoverished, young Russian intellectual named Raskolnikov. Under the unfortunate influence of a particularly pernicious theory of society and human nature, he exalts himself above the moral law, grievously transgresses it by committing two murders, “and plunges into a hell of persecution, madness and terror.”{1}

Raskolnikov had conceived of himself as a great and extraordinary man, on the order of a Napoleon. He tried to convince himself that he wasn’t bound by the same tired old moral code that the vast mass of humanity lives in recognition of, if not obedience to—the merely ordinary men and women who accomplish little and amount to less. Nevertheless, after committing his horrible crime, he finds that he cannot escape his punishment: he cannot silence his sensitive and overburdened conscience. In the end, when he can stand it no longer, he decides to confess his crime and accept suffering as a means of atonement.

Joseph Frank observes that Dostoevsky, the author of this story, had “long been preoccupied with the question of crime and conscience.”{2} In one of his letters, Dostoevsky describes his story as the “psychological report of a crime.”{3} The crime is committed, he says, by “a young man, expelled from the university . . . and living in the midst of the direst poverty.” Coming under the influence of “the strange, ‘unfinished’ ideas that float in the atmosphere,” he decides to murder an old pawnbroker and steal her money. Dostoevsky describes the old woman as “stupid and ailing,” “greedy” and “evil.” Why, it would hardly be a crime at all to murder such a wretched person! What’s more, with the money from his crime, the young man can “finish his studies, go abroad,” and devote the rest of his life to the benefit of humanity!

Inspired by these thoughts, the young man goes through with the crime and murders the old woman. But, notes Dostoevsky, “here is where the entire psychological process of the crime is unfolded. Insoluble problems confront the murderer, unsuspected and unexpected feelings torment his heart . . . and he finishes by being forced to denounce himself.”

This, in brief, is the story of Crime and Punishment. In what follows, we’ll take a closer look at the theory which led Raskolnikov to commit his crime. Then we’ll consider why the theory proved false when Raskolnikov actually attempted to put it into practice.

The Ordinary and Extraordinary

Raskolnikov committed two murders, in part simply to see if he really has the bravado to put his theories into practice. But what are these ideas? Where do they come from? And why do they lead Raskolnikov to such heinous actions?

Essentially, Raskolnikov’s theory, which was partially developed in an article on crime that he had written, holds that all men, by a kind of law of nature, are divided into two distinct classes: the ordinary and the extraordinary. This theory, which finds some of its philosophical roots in the writings of men like Hegel and Nietzsche, claims that ordinary men exist merely for the purpose of reproduction by which, at length, the occasional, extraordinary man might arise. Raskolnikov declares, “The vast mass of mankind is mere material, and only exists in order by some great effort, by some mysterious process, by means of some crossing of races and stocks, to bring into the world at last perhaps one man out of a thousand with a spark of independence.” The man of genius is rarer still, “and the great geniuses, the crown of humanity, appear on earth perhaps one in many thousand millions.”{4}

The distinctive features of the ordinary man are a conservative temperament and a law-abiding disposition. But extraordinary men “all transgress the law.” Indeed, says Raskolnikov, “if such a one is forced for the sake of his idea to step over a corpse or wade through blood, he can . . . find . . . in his own conscience, a sanction for wading through blood.”{5} So the extraordinary man has the right—indeed, depending on the value of his ideas, he may even have the duty—to destroy those who stand in his way. After all, Raskolnikov observes, such ideas may benefit “the whole of humanity.”{6} But how can we know if we are merely ordinary men, or whether, perhaps, we are extraordinary? How can we know if we have the right to transgress the law to achieve our own ends?

Raskolnikov admits that confusion regarding one’s class is indeed possible. But he thinks “the mistake can only arise . . . among the ordinary people” who sometimes like to imagine themselves more advanced than they really are. And we needn’t worry much about that, for such people are “very conscientious” and will impose “public acts of penitence upon themselves with a beautiful and edifying effect.”{7}

But as we’ll see, it’s one of the ironies of this novel that Raskolnikov, who committed murder because he thought himself extraordinary, made precisely this tragic mistake.

A Walking Contradiction

James Roberts observes that Raskolnikov “is best seen as two characters. He sometimes acts in one manner and then suddenly in a manner completely contradictory.”{8} Evidence for this can be seen throughout the novel. In this way, Dostoevsky makes clear, right from the beginning of his story, that Raskolnikov is not an extraordinary man, at least not in the sense in which Raskolnikov himself uses that term in his theory of human nature.

In the opening pages of the novel, we see Raskolnikov at war with himself as he debates his intention to murder an old pawnbroker. “I want to attempt a thing like that,” he says to himself.{9} Then, after visiting the old woman’s flat, ostensibly to pawn a watch, but in reality as a sort of “dress rehearsal” for the murder, he again questions himself: “How could such an atrocious thing come into my head? What filthy things my heart is capable of. Yes, filthy above all . . . loathsome!”{10}

This inner battle suggests that Raskolnikov has mistaken himself for an extraordinary man, a man bound neither by the rules of society, nor the higher moral law. But in fact, he’s actually just a conscientious ordinary man. The portrait Dostoevsky paints of him is really quite complex. He often appears to be a sensitive, though confused, young intellectual, who’s been led to entertain his wild ideas more as a result of dire poverty and self-imposed isolation from his fellow man, rather than from sheer malice or selfish ambition.

In fear and trembling he commits two murders, partly out of a confused desire to thereby benefit the rest of humanity, and partly out of a seemingly genuine concern to really live in accordance with his theories. Ironically, while the murders are partly committed with the idea of taking the old pawnbroker’s money to advance Raskolnikov’s plans, he never attempts to use the money, but merely buries it under a stone. What’s more, Raskolnikov is portrayed as one of the more generous characters in the novel. On more than one occasion, he literally gives away all the money he has to help meet the needs of others. Finally, while Raskolnikov is helped toward confessing his crime through the varied efforts of Porfiry Petrovich, the brilliant, yet compassionate, criminal investigator, and Sonia, the humble, selfless prostitute, nevertheless, it’s primarily Raskolnikov’s own tormented conscience that, at length, virtually forces him to confess to the murders.

So while Raskolnikov is guilty, he’s not completely lost. He still retains a conscience, as well as some degree of genuine compassion toward others. Dostoevsky wants us to see that there’s still hope for Raskolnikov!

The Hope of Restoration

After Raskolnikov commits the two murders, he finds himself confronted with the desperate need to be reconciled with God and his fellow man. From the beginning of the story, Raskolnikov is portrayed as somewhat alienated from his fellows. But once he commits the murders, he experiences a decisive break, both spiritually and psychologically, from the rest of humanity. Indeed, when he murders the old pawnbroker and her sister, something within Raskolnikov also dies. The bond that unites him with all other men in a common humanity is destroyed—or “dies”—as a sort of poetic justice for murdering the two women.

This death, which separates Raskolnikov both from God and his fellow man, can only be reversed through a miracle of divine grace and power. In the novel, the biblical paradigm for this great miracle is the story of the raising of Lazarus. Just as Lazarus died, and was then restored to life through the miraculous power of God in Christ, so also, in Dostoevsky’s story, Raskolnikov’s “death” is neither permanent nor irreversible. He too can be “restored to life.” He too can be reconciled with God and man.

While this theme of death and restoration to life is somewhat subtle, nevertheless, Dostoevsky probably intended it as one of the primary themes of the novel. In the first place, it is emphasized by Sonia, Porfiry Petrovich, and Raskolnikov’s own sister, that only by confessing his crime and accepting his punishment can Raskolnikov again be restored to the rest of humanity. In this way, Dostoevsky repeatedly emphasizes the “death” of Raskolnikov.

In addition, the raising of Lazarus is mentioned at least three times in the novel. One time is when, in the midst of a heated discussion, Porfiry specifically asks Raskolnikov if he believes in the raising of Lazarus, to which Raskolnikov responds that he does.{11} This affirmation foreshadows some hope for Raskolnikov, for the fact that he believes in this miracle at least makes possible the belief that God can also work a miracle in his own life. Secondly, the only extended portion of Scripture cited in the novel relates the story of Lazarus. In fact, it’s Raskolnikov himself, tormented by what he’s done, who asks Sonia to read him the story.{12} Finally, at the end of the novel, the raising of Lazarus is mentioned yet again, this time as Raskolnikov recollects Sonia’s previous reading of the story to him.{13} Interestingly, this final reference to the raising of Lazarus occurs in the context of Raskolnikov’s own “restoration to life.”

Restored to Life

Near the end of the novel, Raskolnikov at last goes to the police station and confesses to the murders: “It was I killed the old pawnbroker woman and her sister Lizaveta with an axe and robbed them.”{14} He is sentenced to eight years in a Siberian labor prison. Sonia, true to her promise, selflessly follows him there. Early one morning she comes to visit Raskolnikov. Overcome with emotion, he begins weeping and throws himself at her feet. Sonia is terrified. “But at the same moment she understood . . . . She knew . . . that he loved her . . . and that at last the moment had come.”{15} God’s love, mediated through Sonia, had finally broken through to Raskolnikov: “He had risen again and he . . . felt in it all his being.”{16}

Although Raskolnikov had previously been something of an outcast with his fellow inmates, nevertheless, on the day of his “restoration,” his relations with them begin to improve. Dostoevsky writes:

He . . . fancied that day that all the convicts who had been his enemies looked at him differently; he had even entered into talk with them and they answered him in a friendly way. He remembered that now, and thought it was bound to be so. Wasn’t everything now bound to be changed?{17}

What’s more, Dostoevsky also implies that Raskolnikov is being restored to relationship with God. Picking up the New Testament that Sonia had given him, “one thought passed through his mind: ‘Can her convictions not be mine now? Her feelings, her aspirations at least . . .’”{18} And Dostoevsky then concludes his great novel by stating: “But that is the beginning of a new story—the story of the gradual renewal of a man, the story of his gradual regeneration, of his passing from one world into another, of his initiation into a new unknown life.”{19}

So by the end of the novel, Raskolnikov, as a type of Lazarus, has experienced his own “restoration to life.” He is ready to begin “his initiation into a new unknown life.” And interestingly, the grace which brings about Raskolnikov’s restoration is primarily mediated to him through the quiet, humble love of Sonia, a prostitute. Just as God was not ashamed to have his own Son, humanly speaking, descended from some who were murderers and some who were prostitutes—for it was just such people He came to save—so also, in Dostoevsky’s story, God is not ashamed to extend His forgiveness and grace to a prostitute, and through her to a murderer as well. Crime and Punishment thus ends on a note of hope, for the guilty can be forgiven and the dead restored to life!

Notes

1. Fyodor Dostoevsky, Crime and Punishment, trans. Constance Garnett (New York: Bantam Books, 1987). Citation from cover blurb on back of book.
2. Joseph Frank, “Introduction” to Dostoevsky, Crime and Punishment, ix.
3. The citations from Dostoevsky’s letter come from Joseph Frank’s “Introduction” to Dostoevsky, Crime and Punishment, viii-ix.
4. Dostoevsky, Crime and Punishment, 229.
5. Ibid., 227.
6. Ibid., 226.
7. Ibid., 228.
8. James Roberts, Cliffs Notes on Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment, ed. Gary Carey (Lincoln, Nebraska: Cliffs Notes, Inc.), 70.
9. Dostoevsky, Crime and Punishment, 2.
10. Ibid., 7.
11. Ibid., 227.
12. Ibid., 283.
13. Ibid., 472.
14. Ibid., 458.
15. Ibid., 471.
16. Ibid.
17. Ibid.
18. Ibid., 472.
19. Ibid.

© 2006 Probe Ministries


Grappling with Guilt

What Makes You Feel Guilty?

What makes you feel guilty?

Has a relationship gone sour and you find yourself agonizing about what might have been if you’d acted or spoken differently? Maybe your slave-driver boss hassles you for being behind. Are your kids wondering why they ended up with you as a parent?

These days, food guilt is common. With super-slim models gracing supermarket tabloids and magazine covers (admit it, now; you’ve peeked), even a fit, petite-sized former cheerleader can get depressed standing in the checkout line. “No-Guilt Nachos,” offers a Ladies’ Home Journal recipe.

America Online has a special guilt section dealing with “Relationship Guilt,” “Parental Guilt,” “Food Guilt,” “Workforce Guilt,” “Pricey Guilt,” “I’m-a-Rotten-Person Guilt,” “Stay-in-Touch Guilt,” and “Trying-to-Please-Everyone Guilt.” Whew!

Ever been late paying a family bill due to negligence or overspending? Been unfaithful to your spouse? Lied to the IRS or a friend? Been angry without reason?

When we fall short of our own – or others’ – standards, guilt feelings can result. Unresolved guilt can bring anxiety, depression, ulcers, low self-esteem and more.

I am a recovering perfectionist. As a teenager, I could be pretty hard on myself. I once fouled out of a high school basketball game in the final seconds with our team ahead. The opposing player made his free throws, putting his team ahead. I felt bleak. Our team’s desperation inbounds pass went to midcourt, where a teammate caught the ball and threw up a prayer. The ball swished through the net as time expired. We had won. I was the second happiest player there. I probably would have excoriated myself had he missed.

A single man I know became involved with another man’s wife. Her rocky marriage had sent her lonely heart wandering and his youthful enthusiasm and libido met many of her wants. They dreamed, schemed, sneaked, and rendezvoused. When discovered, he lied and sought to perpetuate the affair. Eventually, friends convinced him to break things off. He felt guilty for having the fling, guilty for lying about it, and guilty for dumping her.

Feeling guilty can cripple you emotionally. Serious ethical or moral lapses can bring blame and shame. A seemingly minor flaw can sometimes bug the daylights out of you. This article looks at healthy, biblical ways to deal with guilt, and how to know that you are really forgiven.

Some Causes of Guilt Feelings

Why does guilt affect us so, and how can we alleviate it? Some psychologists emphasize that problems in our past can plague us in the present. Inability to reconcile or move past unhealthy relationships with parents, siblings, teachers or classmates may color our emotions. Other authorities feel that people may be following overly rigid standards.

Suggested solutions have included discovering and resolving past hang-ups, relaxing moral codes or easing personal expectations. Certainly many people still suffer from past problems or set unrealistic standards. Forty-eight hours of tasks won’t fit into one day, so don’t necessarily castigate yourself when only half your ambitious to-do list gets accomplished. If you find yourself sneaking a diet-busting snack, maybe rewarding yourself occasionally is better than whipping yourself. But it seems wise to also consider that, at least in some instances, we may feel guilty because we are guilty.

If this is true, then therapy for a guilty person could begin with getting them to admit their shortcoming. That’s not always easy.

Admitting you’re wrong can be hard. Perhaps you’ve heard of the writer who asked his domineering editor if he’d ever been wrong. “Yes,” replied the editor. “I was wrong once. It was when I thought I was wrong but I wasn’t.”

University of Illinois psychologist O. H. Mowrer pointed out a common dilemma in trying to face your own shortcomings:

Here, too, we encounter difficulty, because human beings do not change radically until first they acknowledge their sins, but it is hard for one to make such an acknowledgement unless he has “already changed.” In other words, the full realization of deep worthlessness is a severe ego “insult,” and one must have a new source of strength to endure it.{1}

I understand this inner weakness problem. As a teenager, I found success through athletics, academics, and student government. I was attending one of my nation’s leading secondary schools. President John F. Kennedy and actor Michael Douglas were alumni. But my achievements didn’t bring the personal satisfaction I wanted. Guilt, anxiety, and a poor self-image often plagued me on the inside.

My first year in university, I met some students who said that the spiritual side of life offered a solution to the guilt problem. A relationship with God, they said, could give me the “new source of strength” necessary to face my own flaws and seek help. Because of them, I discovered practical reasons why faith could help me overcome my guilt.

A Solution to Guilt

The hit movie Bruce Almighty depicts God’s attempts to contact the main character (played by Jim Carrey) by leaving a number on his pager. Turns out the phone number is valid in many area codes. After the film’s release, people and businesses began getting calls from folks asking for God.

A Florida woman threatened to sue the film studio after twenty calls per hour clogged her cell phone. A Denver radio station built a contest around the fluke. Some callers to the station seemed to think they’d really discovered a direct line to God. One even left a message confessing her adultery.{2}

Owning up to guilt can help clear your conscience.

Those college students I mentioned earlier had a joy and enthusiasm that attracted me. They claimed to have a personal relationship with Jesus of Nazareth. I couldn’t believe it all. I kept returning to their meetings because I was curious and because it was a good place to get a date. Especially because it was a good place to get a date!

They explained that God loved me, but that my own self-centeredness or sin had separated me from Him. They said His Son, Jesus, died to pay the penalty for my sins, and rose from the dead so I could receive forgiveness as a free gift. Eventually, it made sense.{3} Through a simple heart attitude, I invited Jesus to enter my life, forgive me, and become my friend. There was no thunder and lightning, no angels appeared, and I did not become perfect overnight. But I found a new inner peace, freedom from guilt, assurance that I would be with God forever, and the best friend I could ever have.

Of course, my experience is not unique. Harvard psychologist William James, in his classic book The Varieties of Religious Experience cites Henry Alline who placed his faith in Christ: “the burden of guilt and condemnation was gone . . . my whole soul, that was a few minutes ago groaning under mountains of death . . . was now filled with immortal love . . . freed from the chains of death and darkness….”{4}

One early believer wrote: “God made you alive with Christ. He forgave all our sins. He canceled the record that contained the charges against us. He took it and destroyed it by nailing it to Christ’s cross.”{5} I found that my own guilt was gone, but I also had to draw on His power daily.

A friend of Jesus wrote, “If we confess our sins to him, he [God] is faithful and just to forgive us and to cleanse us from every wrong.”{6} Some call this statement the believer’s “bar of soap.” We confess, being honest with God. He forgives and cleanses us.

But what if you don’t feel forgiven? Is there such a thing as false guilt?

True or False?

A reader who signed his e-mail “Guilt plagued” told me of his struggles:

A few years ago, out of desperation, I made a series of terrible mistakes. I am committed to the Lord and confessed my sins. I’m terribly ashamed and embarrassed about what I have done, and I feel ten times worse because I can’t make restitution. . . . I’m having a difficult time processing the idea that He has forgiven me. . . . Please help me . . . what should I do? The guilt is eating me alive.

Sometimes we feel guilty because we are guilty. Other times we feel guilty without cause. Is your guilt true or false, and what can you do about the feelings?{7}

When my wife, Meg, was in graduate school at Stanford, she regularly parked on the street near her campus office. One afternoon she discovered a parking ticket on her windshield. During that day – while she was parked there – campus management had painted the curb red, signifying “No Parking.” (The curb had never had paint during her tenure.) Was she guilty?

Her dilemma was both laughable and burdensome. Meg would have to either pay a fine or go to court. She appeared in court and told the judge what had happened. He dropped the charges. (I should hope he would!)

The law and the judge’s application of it determined guilt or innocence. Similarly, if we violate God’s proscriptions, we stand guilty. If we do not violate biblical principles, then we may or may not be guilty.

If you know your guilt is real, your solution begins with placing your trust in Christ to forgive you. Once you have, and you become aware of sins in your daily life, simply admit them to God.

Keep short accounts with God. As the proverbial country preacher said, “I ‘fesses ’em as I does ’em.” Feelings may lag behind, but if you’ve admitted your sin to God, He has forgiven you.

What if you’re unsure if your guilt is true or false, or if you confess your sins but still don’t feel forgiven?

Consider the Holy Spirit’s guidance. Jesus sent His Holy Spirit to guide us into truth,{8} especially concerning sin.{9} If the Bible doesn’t prohibit certain behaviors, you – if you’re a follower of Jesus – can ask the Holy Spirit for wisdom about them. Jesus’ brother James wrote, “If you need wisdom—if you want to know what God wants you to do—ask him, and he will gladly tell you.”{10} Discerning God’s guidance is not a perfect science, but His inner conviction can help you sort things out.

Making Things Right

What do you do if you’re not sure if your guilt feelings are legitimate, or if you don’t feel forgiven?

Realize that God’s promises trump your own self-criticism. Members of God’s family can trust His opinion even when they don’t feel like it’s true. We can “set our hearts at rest in his presence whenever our hearts condemn us. For God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything.”{11} Does your heart condemn you unjustly? You can say, “Listen, heart. I’m a child of God. I’ve confessed my sin and He says I’m forgiven. I refuse to believe your condemnation.”

I recommend that you converse with yourself in private rather than in public! For a variety of psychological and spiritual reasons, your guilt feelings may not disappear immediately. Changing established emotional patterns can take time. Choosing to believe God is good starting point.

Realize also that God’s promises trump the real enemy. This may be hard to swallow, but it’s important. Jesus taught the existence of “Satan,” a “liar and the father of lies,”{12} the “accuser” of believers.{13}

I once considered myself too intellectual to believe in Satan. Our university mascot was the “Blue Devil.” To me, the devil was some guy in a blue costume with a pitchfork who ran around at basketball games. Then I heard that Satan the deceiver has some people so deceived that they don’t believe he exists. Jesus’ life and teachings eventually convinced me that Satan was real. If you experience false guilt feelings, realize that they may have a lower source. You needn’t deny the feelings, but you can deny false guilt based on Jesus’ friendship with you.{14}

You may need to make restitution. My second year in college, I swiped a plastic bucket from behind the lectern in the psychology lecture hall. It had been there every day during the semester. “No one wants it,” I convinced myself. “It deserves to be taken.” I used it to wash my car.

Two years later, I read a booklet about God’s forgiveness. That bucket kept coming to mind. I not only needed to admit my theft to God. I needed to make restitution.

My booty long since lost, I purchased a new bucket and carried it sheepishly across campus one afternoon. Finding no one in the psychology building to confess to, I left the bucket in a broom closet with a note of explanation. Maybe a janitor read it. My conscience was clear.

After hearing of this stolen bucket episode in a lecture, one friend wrote his former employer to confess all the items he had stolen and to offer restitution. “We all probably have some plastic buckets in our lives,” observed another associate.

Feeling guilty? You may just need to relax unrealistic standards in a stress-filled world. But you also may need to face genuine personal shortcomings. If you do, you can know that the complete forgiveness that Jesus offers is free and that His truth trumps all challengers.

This article is adapted with permission from Rusty Wright, “Grappling with Guilt,” In Touch, February 2005, pp. 18-20; Copyright © Rusty Wright 2005.

Notes

1. O. H. Mowrer, “Sin, the Lesser of Two Evils,” quoted in Henry R. Brandt, The Struggle for Peace (Wheaton, IL: Scripture Press Publications, 1965).
2. Mitch Stacy, “‘Bruce Almighty’ Phone Number Annoys Many,” Associated Press/AOL News, May 28, 2003.
3. For detailed information on Jesus and evidence to support His claims, see www.WhoIsJesus-Really.com.
4. The Life and Journal of the Rev. Mr. Henry Alline (Boston, 1806), 31-40; selection abridged in Henry James, The Varieties of Religious Experience (New York: The Modern Library/Random House, 1936 [original copyright 1902]), 214-215.
5. Colossians 2:13-14 NLT.
6. 1 John 1:9 NLT.
7. For more on false guilt, see, Kerby Anderson, “False Guilt,” www.probe.org/false-guilt/and Sue Bohlin, “It’s Not Your Fault!” www.probe.org/its-not-your-fault/.
8. John 16:13.
9. John 16:8.
10. James 1:5 NLT.
11. 1 John 3:18-20 NIV.
12. John 8:44 NASB.
13. Revelation 12:9-10 NASB.
14. 1 John 4:4 NLT.

 

© 2005 Probe Ministries


“Can I Be Forgiven for My Abortion?”

What if someone really believes that they were saved at a young age (14). . .but is then faced with an unwanted pregnancy at age 15 . . .and she terminates the pregnancy even though she KNOWS in her heart that it was wrong – do you believe that she can be forgiven? God tells us that He will never put more on us than we can handle . . .so what if we make the WRONG choice . . .what if we take the easy way out??? Do you think he can forgive us for this? I mean . . .what about the sacredness of life . . .I mean a baby is the most innocent of His creation . . .I hope with all my heart that it can be forgiven. . .but I just don’t see how!!! I interfered with His plan!!! Plus what about the scripture in Proverbs . . .about a man being tortured by the guilt of murder shall be a prisoner forever . . .let no one support him . . doesn’t this mean that I’m supposed to be tormented by it FOREVER!!! and no one should help me????

Okay . . .Here’s my story . . . [Story edited out]

Thanks so much for listening . . .this has been hidden for so long that it has been so difficult re-living it!!! Maybe it is my judgment to live with this internal struggle . . .maybe I’m not supposed to find peace . . .

What a mess I’ve made of my life!!!!!!!

Dear ______, precious child of God, beloved daughter of the King—

I am so very very VERY glad you wrote! I hurt with you. . . in fact, there are tears in my eyes as I write this to you—-my heart hurts for you and for the burden you have been carrying all these years.

Let’s get to the bottom line first: In Jesus’ name, YOU HAVE ALREADY BEEN FORGIVEN!!! Because you have trusted Christ, the first time you confessed your sin of abortion and asked for God’s forgiveness, He gave it to you. In fact, He POURED His forgiveness out on you like an anointing of oil. Listen to 1 John 1:9:

If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

You confessed your sin, and because He is faithful and He is just (meaning, Jesus already paid for your sin at the cross), God the Father not only forgave you of your sin, He cleansed you from the stain of your guilt. Your feelings of being unforgiven and dirty and shame-filled have been lying to you, because the truth is, you are forgiven and clean and accepted in the Beloved (Eph. 1:6 KJV)

I want to challenge you to do something that will help you really GET this truth. Three times a day (at least), say out loud, “Thank You, Lord for forgiving me because Jesus died for me. I receive Your forgiveness and I receive Your cleansing. Thank You for making me clean and pure again.” It really helps to say it out loud so that your spirit hears those words of truth come out of your mouth. This is the way of faith, the way we receive God’s blessings by faith even before we feel them.

You have some work to do to get to the point where you can feel unashamed and pure again-—but that’s not a matter of EARNING those things, but of changing your thinking so that you can embrace the reality that is yours to live out. Is there an Abortion Restoration or Recovery ministry near you? Ask the Lord to show you if there is; I don’t know of any network of programs to check with, but I can point you to an excellent workbook you can do on your own. This is the book that is used at our church for the Abortion Restoration class that healed, post-abortal women offer a couple of times a year.

Her Choice to Heal by Sydna Masse and Joan Phillips

Also, there are a couple of websites where you can do some reading that will be very encouraging to you as you work your way through the necessary grieving of the loss of your baby (who is in heaven, and you will see him or her again some day!), and the necessary forgiving of those involved: yourself, the boy who got you pregnant, your parents, the Planned Parenthood people, and anyone else who played a part in the trauma to your soul.

After Abortion
After Abortion Message Boards (Online Christian Support at the above site)

www.hopeafterabortion.com

I also suggest you listen to a lot of praise and worship music so that you focus on the Lord and let Him minister His love to you. As you do that, there’s one prayer I would strongly suggest you pray, regularly: “Lord, show me how much You love me.” He LOVES to answer that prayer!

You have not gone further than God’s grace can reach, and you have done nothing that He cannot turn into good, for His glory and for your benefit. God wants to soak His grace down into the very bottom of your soul. Jesus’ blood has covered and cleansed your sin, and you are clean and forgiven because He loves you so much He paid the ultimate price to prove it to you.

I’m glad you told me your story, because with every telling, you release more of the shame and the guilt, and you take another step toward healing. Who knows. . . some day you may find yourself telling your story to young girls BEFORE they make the same mistake you did, and you will watch God redeem your pain to change lives to His glory!

I SO hope this helps.

Warmly,

Sue Bohlin
Probe Ministries

+ + + + + + + + + +

Addendum: I received this note from someone who works in abortion recovery ministry:

Hi Sue,

I was just reading your response to the email question: Can I be forgiven for my abortion? My heart is heavy for her and I am lifting her up in prayer.

She might also locate a recovery support group in her immediate area by doing a zip code search at www.optionline.org.

About the same time, I received this wonderful letter from the original writer:

Dear Sue,

I did find a place that ministers to women like me. . . and I am planning to participate in the “Forgiven and Set Free” Bible study. I’ve been through the study guide 3 times and I can’t even tell you how much it helped me!! I know that I am not alone and I will continue to work on my healing…

I wanted to share a poem that I wrote with you—it comes from my heart. . .

A Baby’s Perspective. . .

I can hear her talking with someone ~ I know it is all about me . . .
She says she’s just not “ready” and the TRUTH she cannot see . . .
The truth that You made me and meant for me to be with her . . .
That You would never put more on her than she is able to endure.

For You created my inmost being & placed me in her womb. . .
But she does not realize this and will make a choice real soon.
Please be with her and help her to make the choice that is right . . .
And to know that NOTHING can be hidden from Your sight!

For I am a precious baby and deserve the right to live. . .
If she could only know ~ I’ve got lots of love to give!
They have NO RIGHT to decide to remove me from this place. . .
But I know that real soon I will be looking upon Your face.

For You are already aware of the choice she will make. . .
Oh God ~ she just doesn’t realize all that is at stake!
For as hard as she tries ~ she will be UNABLE TO FORGET. . .
I just pray someday she will feel the NEED to REPENT!

And when that time comes ~ help her to cope with what she’s done. . .
And to find strength, love and compassion in the arms of Your Son!
For the blood of Jesus can purify her from all of her sin. . .
No matter how SEVERE & HORRIBLE it might have been!

I know she feels scared inside as I can hear her every cry. . .
She even prays and wishes that You would let HER die.
She is being faced with a TREMENDOUS internal struggle. . .
So many feelings and emotions she will try to juggle . . .

The biggest decision she’s faced thus far has been ‘what to wear’. . .
But now she feels as if she is living a TERRIBLE nightmare!
Please help her to realize the truth before it is too late . . .
That a baby is a precious gift and NEVER a mistake!

These people talking to her right now don’t even have a clue!
They are telling her what they believe she really needs to do.
They tell her she would be better off without me in her life. . .
Even though he says he loves her -she’s too young to be his wife!

They tell her: “You must make a choice and do it really fast . . .
Then you can get on with your life and put this in the past. . .
Just go and take care of this ‘problem’ and never think of it again”
Oh – God – Don’t they even realize the SEVERITY of this sin-!?!??!

Why is this the ONLY advice that they have to give !!?!?!?
That it’s not in her best interest to even let me LIVE!?!?!
They tell her that she has so much to look forward to ~
And forgetting about this “situation” is all she needs to do!

How can they make this option sound so easy and so right??
Oh – please God ~ before it’s too late – help them to see the light!
Please forgive them – they do not know what they are saying!
When instead they should be on their knees and praying!

She is now talking to her mom about her big “mistake”
Surely my grandma will help her before it is too late!
But instead I hear my grandma say she doesn’t want me to be born. . .
She says that I will only bring the family a lot of shame & scorn.

God – please be with them as they face this tragic event. . .
And when it’s all over – please show them their NEED to REPENT!!
What are they thinking!?!? – THIS SHOULD NOT EVEN BE AN OPTION!!!
I never once heard anyone mention the possibility of adoption!

Why do they continue to talk as if I’m not “real”. . .
That I’m just a “blob of tissue” and really “no big deal”
They do not know that You made me and have a Plan for me. . .
If only we could open their eyes so that THIS they would see!

Sooner or later she will be faced with the reality of her action. . .
And grief, despair, guilt & shame will be part of her reaction.
When this time comes – God please help her to know that it is true . . .
That there is NOTHING in this world that You cannot do!

And when my mommy is forced to deal with this someday . . .
Please let her know when she seeks You ~ everything will be okay!
That Your amazing Grace and abounding love will see her through . . .
That all she needs to do is to place all of her trust in You!

When she puts her faith in Jesus and what He did on HER behalf. . .
Then surely You will save her from all of Your wrath!
For You sent Jesus into the world to save us from EVERY sin. . .
From even the most horrendous ones that are hard to comprehend!

Please help her to realize that in Your Word she needs to trust. . .
That if she confesses this sin to You, You will be faithful & JUST. . .
You will forgive her and make her “pure” again. . .
And You will no longer remember this terrible sin!

So please let my mommy confess & feel Your presence in her heart. . .
So that she will realize that she can have a brand new start!
Please protect her from all the people who will be quick to condemn. . .
For You said let him throw the first stone who is completely without sin!

For ALL sin separates us from You and no one is “good” enough. . .
For being “perfect” and always doing “right” is just way too tough!
For we have a “sinful nature” – the bible says it through & through. . .
But if we believe & trust in Jesus we can be made completely “new”!

For You can turn ANY situation into GOOD for Your glory. . .
She may even help others someday by telling her story!
For Your love is GREATER than we can ever comprehend. . .
And Your Grace covers even the very worst of sin!

Even though I wish we would never have to be apart. . .
Please let her know I still love her with all of my heart!
Tell her I forgive her and forgive herself she must . . .
For I am in heaven with You and in that she can trust.

I pray that someday she will come to You with this big “mess”. . .
And I know that You will help her in her time of great distress. . .
When she finally finds you -in Your loving arms she will stay. . .
And I will be so very happy that I will see her in heaven one day!