"For Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous
for the unrighteous, to bring you to God."
1 Peter 3:18
I've heard many sermons on 1 Peter 3:18. But I don’t think I have ever the time to contemplate all that the verse says. I understand at a cognitive level that Jesus died so I could be reconciled to God. The part I don’t fully grasp is the middle of the verse: “the righteous for the unrighteous." To begin to grasp the fullness of the verse I have had to wrestle with the concepts of righteousness and unrighteousness. In light of those concepts I begin to grasp the huge amount of grace contained in that little phrase.
Scripture makes it clear that Christ is righteous. It blows my mind that righteousness is one of God’s character traits. That means He didn't just act righteous, He was righteous in every thought, word, attitude, and deed. He did the right thing every time at exactly the right moment. Every word He spoke was spoken at the right moment in the right way to rightly, unselfishly meet a need. His silences were also purposeful and governed by His righteousness, not passive aggressive as we so often are. He never lied or spoke words with a motive of wounding someone. When He confronted sin it was never done out of hurt or pride, but was done with the pure motive of reconciliation. If He healed someone it was right and if He didn't it was right. When He judged, His judgments were right. His commandments were right then and are right today. When Christ walked this earth, He never made a wrong decision, never had a bad attitude, never made a bad choice, never had regrets, and was never too late to do His Father's will. Unlike me, He never went to bed sorry for how He had treated someone nor did he regret nor reaching out to someone.
To more fully grasp the truth of His righteousness, all I have to do is think of all of the sins I've committed over my lifetime. A pastor I served under suggested we journal our prayers. One of my young friends mentioned how much more serious her sin looked when she confessed it by name and wrote it down on paper. 2 Corinthians 5:21 says, "For He has made Him, who knew no sin, to be sin for us, that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him." It is like being able to put all of our sin in boxes and being able to carry them to the cross where Jesus is hanging and placing them at His feet so God cam place them on Him. I can’t imagine how many boxes I would have! I am pretty sure those boxes would full. I am sure more than one box would be full of words I wish I could retract--words that were lies, hateful, spoken in haste, gossip, slander, disrespectful, and chosen purposefully to wound. Some of my boxes would be full of compromises that eat at my soul, because I can’t believe I gave in and compromised on issues so clearly spelled out in His Word so I would be accepted by those offended by my faith. Some of my boxes would have been filled with sins caused by all sorts of lust. Some would have been filled with self-destructive sins like binges, starving, or abusing my body with compulsive exercise. Some boxes would be filled with harsh judgments of others and some would be filled with harsh judgments of self. I would have some boxes full of toxic pride, angry outbursts, hatred, bitterness, and of self-centered selfish choices. I am sure there would also be lots of boxes filled with sins of omission. This would contain things like the withholding of love, kind words, compassion, forgiveness, and even Christ.
My purpose in writing this is not to take back shame for which I have been set free nor to trigger toxic shame in you. I understand that because Adam and Eve were our first parental types we have been born with the propensity to fill up boxes with sin--that is what it is to be a child who is a descendant of Adam and Eve. The truth of grace is that Christ took our sin and gave us His righteousness. I am writing this to help myself see just how much He loves me and to make sure that I know that as the Righteous One, He was truly qualified to bear weight of my sin and shame--He had none of His own to bear. When I was a child I was terrified of God. I was afraid not to come to Him because I feared that all of my sin would be displayed on a movie screen for all to see! However, the truth is He already became sin for me! Every sin in every box was put on Him. He bore my sin and shame so I can let go of it. He gave me His righteousness. I am free of accusation. When I'm face to face with Christ, there will be no big screen TV displaying my sin. Nor will I be given some kind of banner to wear that has my sin printed on it. Christ already bore it publicly for me. When we get to heaven we will be there on His merit and because of the sacrifice He paid on the cross. That means I have been given His truth for the lies I once spoke, love for the hatred that once dwelled in my heart, kindness for the unkind things I did, purity for my lust, self-control for my addictions, patience for my impatience, compassion for my bitterness, and passion for my complacency. Christ died so I might become the righteousness of God in HIM!
What a precious gift God has give believers--righteousness for unrighteousness. I don't need to hang my head in shame; I can now live as a beloved child who has the opportunity to become like my heavenly Father. It hurts to think of Christ bearing my sin so publicly! The way for me to deal with my current sin is to face it, call it by its rightful name, and confess it to Jesus. When I began to look inside and asked God to search my heart, I realized that He wasn't surprised by the number of boxes. He knew that they were there. Yet, He was compassionate, gracious, and kind, taking each one from me.
I wonder how many of us are still carrying those sin boxes around with us. Maybe we have been to ashamed to confess the sin to Him. Yet, He already knew when He went to the cross for us. Maybe it is because we think we haven't paid a high enough price to make up contents of our boxes. Yet, He paid for all of our sin, with His own blood. Because He loved He gave us the gift of grace--the act of exchanging His righteousness for our unrighteousness. The boxes He bought with His own blood are the boxes I no longer own!