A Place to Go with our Guilt

Tomorrow I am off to Haiti. When I come back, I’ll have more money, more clothes, more food, and more comfort than I had when I left. The reason is because I will actually see all that I have. But I will save those reflections for later.

In the meantime, I decided to post a recent blog from another site I write for called “Pick Your Portion.”  It’s a daily devotional with scripture and reflections from multiple authors. Here’s the link if you’re interested in checking it out: http://pickyourportion.com/

For my assignment this week, I had 4 choices of passages to write about. Shockingly, I landed in Leviticus. The jewel I found there is perfect for anyone who has blown their Lent- or feels guilty about anything else they’ve done that reminds them they don’t measure up. (I’m guessing that includes just about all of us). So if you’re perfect, you can skip this entry.  Otherwise, read on.   

Guilt Offering
pay here medium

I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but not many people write devotionals on Leviticus. You want to fail in a Bible reading plan? Leviticus is your book. You want to dissuade people from reading the Old Testament? I recommend Leviticus.  But you want to inspire people?  Leviticus is generally not the first place you turn.

Imagine my surprise when I was perusing today’s readings and Leviticus 7 nearly jumped out and bit me.

Positioned at the top of the chapter (in large topical font) are the words “Guilt Offering”.  I don’t know about you, but the word “guilt” draws me in every time. I am a guilt person. Let me be clear to say that I do not mean “guilty person.” Like many of you reading this, I know I am not guilty because of what I believe about Christ.  But guilt has a tendency to draw me in and wreak havoc on my peaceful heart.
I feel guilt about a lot of things. Some of them are legitimate. Some are halfway legitimate. But some I have no real reason to feel guilt about. So why do I take guilt on?

Maybe it gives me the illusion of control. If I feel guilty enough, my vigilance will earn me Gods favor. I know I’ve asked for forgiveness, but have I really done enough?
So it’s no surprise that this passage drew me. Even if it is in Leviticus. Maybe if there was still such a thing as a guilt offering, I could take it to God and He would really forgive me. I mean, haven’t you ever felt that it was too easy just to ask for forgiveness?

At times I fear I’ve fallen into what Dietrich Bonhoeffer calls “cheap grace.” This great saint lived- and wrote about- the cost of discipleship, and when I read his words about what it really means to follow Christ, I imagine him rolling in his grave (or wringing his hands in his mansion in heaven) about the way we casually receive our unmerited forgiveness.
There are times when I feel I need to pay more for what I’ve done. And keep paying. After all, I don’t ever measure up to the person I think God wants me to be.
So maybe this Levitical sacrifice thing has something I need.
And then I read on.
You will notice in v.5, it’s the priest the people came to with their sacrifices. They didn’t go to God with their sacrifice. They went to the priest- and he offered the sacrifice for them.
Suddenly it dawns on me that what we do today is not unlike what they did.

The only difference is (as Hebrews 9:11 tells us), our priest is higher. So high, in fact, he trumps all other priests, making them unnecessary in the equation. Because our priest doesn’t just present the sacrifice.  He is the sacrifice.
No bloody animals needed. He bled to take their place. He who had no sin became sin. He who had no guilt became guilt. God laid upon our great high priest the iniquity of us all. So reclaiming our iniquity is not in our power.
The only thing we can “do” with our iniquity is let the forgiveness we’ve undeservedly received become forgiveness we undeservedly give.

That (I believe Bonhoeffer would affirm) is the cost of discipleship.
And it’s the only price tag attached to the unearned gift of God’s grace.