It must be an odd life living in the knowledge that one day everything might come crashing down around you. Secret hideaways, multi-million fortunes, armies of bodyguards… all this may well never be enough to shield you from being brought to justice. Because you are guilty we will hunt you down, even if it takes 10 years, 16 years, or more.
You will be found out.
There are not many of us who are fugitive war criminals. Not that I know of anyway. But there are a lot of us who are terrified of being found out. Terrified that the protection we have built up around us will be breached. Terrified that God will see through our defenses and bring us to justice. Terrified that God is actually a hunter who seeks us out in order to expose us, humiliate us, and ultimately destroy us.
I think that is why many people avoid God. People in church and outside church the same. Because, we think, if God really knew us, he would not love us. If we were the 1 he left the 99 for, he would make his way back to the 99 disappointed. Like a blind-date that goes wrong because we look nothing like the photo, when God truly knows us he will reject us.
I am afraid of being found out. I am afraid I have been found out. I know I have been found out. For the mass of insecurities I am, for the prejudices I hold, for the thoughts I have and ultimately for the fact I do not love myself. As most of us don’t.
The thing is, God has found me out, and yet I have no fear of being put on trial. Not because I have bribed him with my good works, or held him hostage with the power of my dog collar. But because he has released me as a free man. No longer captive to my desires, my past, not held by karma; no longer a slave, no longer a king, no longer a nobody. Free.
We have many metaphors for this. We sometimes say Jesus has paid the price for us. Sometimes we say we have been redeemed. Sometimes we say we have been washed whiter than snow, although being ‘washed in the blood of the lamb’ never sounded very clean to me.
However we describe it, it means that we need not live in fear of being hunted down, found out, humiliated and punished.
What marks us out as followers of Jesus who have welcomed the Holy Spirit to dwell in us is that we no longer hide like fugitives; we no longer hang our heads in shame; we no longer hunch under the weight of who we really are and would rather not be. We are totally free and totally released. If only more of us in our churches and outside our churches would know this…!
Of course in reality I still don’t like the fact God sees everything. I cannot believe he sees it and still loves me, accepts me, welcomes me. I cannot understand how he see me as holy, pure, unblemished. But he does. He does.
Sometimes I want him to hunt me down because it makes more sense. Punishment is easier to accept than grace.
And if you’re looking away now because you really can’t believe it for yourself, how much more is it true for you.