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Today: Thursday, December 13, 2018


Whose Guilt?

First published 09 Dec 2018

I was once vacuuming the stairs at home.  It doesn’t happen frequently - I mean my being so domestic - but I had noticed some mud.  Who might have brought that in, I thought.  Who walked upstairs with muddy shoes?  I had my suspicions… But then as I completed the chore, I turned round and there, where I had just cleaned, was some fresh mud!  I checked my own shoes, and there it was - it was my mud on my shoes.  I was guilty, and felt guilty for mentally accusing others.

There is a graphic story in the Old Testament about the powerful king David, who took advantage of his position to steal another man’s wife and then plotted to have him killed.  He thought he had covered his tracks, until Nathan the prophet confronted him with a sorry story of a poor man who had his pet lamb stolen to feed a rich man’s guests.  David was horrified that anyone should do such a mean thing.  But everything changed with Nathan’s withering words - You are the man!  (David’s story comes in 2 Samuel 11, and Nathan’s story in the next chapter.)

We don’t have much difficulty seeing other people’s faults.  We are usually slower to recognise our own.  One of the messages of Advent - this preparation time for Jesus’ coming - is that we need some prophets to tell us the truth, people who will show up our hypocrisy.  We need that because while we fool ourselves that we are OK, we are not in a receptive mood for greater truths.

The prophet most closely linked with Jesus’ coming was John the Baptist.  And John had some penetrating comments to make about sight-seers who were curious about Jesus.  He told them to turn from sin and be baptised.  He called people ‘snakes’ and said they were like trees that were rotten or in the way and that should be cut down.  (His story and words come in Luke 3 and Matthew 3.)

He was direct and challenging in order to force people to look at themselves honestly.  He was perhaps anticipating Jesus’ joke about people being able to see specks in other people’s eyes while they couldn’t see logs in their own (Matthew 7: 3-5).  That is hypocrisy.

Christmas is about good news - wonderful news.  But before the good news, comes the bad news.  The bad news is that we often get things wrong and often don’t recognise our faults.  We need to face those so that we can receive not just the good news but welcome the Jesus who comes to save us from our sins, to help us turn our lives round, and give us forgiveness and confidence in place of guilt.

Mud on the stairs is a small thing.  Hearing any challenge to our own complacency and recognising our own sins is a much bigger thing.  Receiving forgiveness and new hope is something bigger still.

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Help me not only to recognise and face my own guilt, but to find in Jesus the forgiveness and new life I need.

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