Sometimes God really likes to hit us over the head with His metaphors.
Recently, one of the freshman girls who I work with, who I’ve had the pleasure of calling a friend, offered to share her Indian heritage with some of us in the building. She asked if she could give us all henna artwork, and it was absolutely beautiful! (My biggest regret is forgetting to snap a picture!) I felt so appreciated and honored that she would offer to do that with me. And it was honestly so much fun! Imagine the best manicure you’ve ever had, only better! When she finished, I had a beautiful henna tattoo that wrapped around my fingers and up my left arm.
I couldn’t stop looking at it. I felt so beautiful and feminine with it on. I knew that it was made especially for me, and I loved every inch of it! Every day I would take special care to wash that hand gently so that it wouldn’t fade. I took every chance I had to show it off and give credit to a talented artist. But unfortunately, it did fade. My body grew and changed, and within a week or so it had turned into a sickly looking stain that eventually faded into nothing.
The weekend after my beautiful artwork faded, I had an old friend come into the city to stay with me. He wanted to go out on the town and I was more than happy to show him the New York City nightlife. We started at a bar in the village, and upon entering they stamped my right hand with their logo, a smug looking cat. This started a night of partying, drinking, and doing whatever it took to show him how much fun I was having.
Now, this is not a post about the morality of drinking alcohol; you can find plenty of other articles, and hopefully some scripture, to form your own opinion on that. But I do know that somewhere between the beer and the conversation, I began to feel so guilty. I was putting on airs, and trying to make this person, and everyone in the bar, think that I was cool, sexy, and valuable. I woke up the next morning, with a small headache, feeling so ashamed.
I took a shower that day and scrubbed my right hand with soap and hot water. But the cat would not come off. I just stared at me, disapprovingly. I don’t know what sort of magical permanent ink that bar was using, but it took nearly a week of scouring before this cat started to fade. And I was so ashamed. I wore long sleeves and bracelets to try to hide it. I didn’t want anyone from my church or work to see the logo and know, somehow, all that I had felt and done.
Romans 8:1 tells us that “there is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”
He covers our sins, so we do not need to be defined by them. How quickly I forgot that He washed my heart clean, as soon as my body was branded by shame.
But a life in Christ constantly molds us. It sharpens us and produces wonderful fruit. God weaves an intricate and beautiful life for us, as He teaches us to walk in the ways of Christ. Paul tells us in 2 Corinthians 5:17 “if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” It is not our sins that brand us, but His love. And like my henna tattoo, the beauty of what Christ does in our lives is infectious. We should be so enthralled by its majesty that we can’t help by show it off. Because of His sacrifice, which makes us beautiful and valuable, we can rest assured that our sins no longer bind us. They do not define us, because they have been forgiven! Our true identity is not as a committer of whatever sin we seem to come back to, but as a beloved and adopted child of God.