I don’t know what your specific story is. I don’t know if you’ve been raped, sexually abused, or trafficked. I don’t know if you indulged in sexual immorality or if you were forced into doing something you didn’t want. I don’t know if you know who hurt you or if the person’s hands grazed over you anonymously in a crowd. I don’t know if you were a child or an adult. I don’t know if it’s been a public scandal or if you’ve kept this secret for years.
That doesn’t matter.
You can be made new.
But you can’t be made new by the world.
World cultures abound in placing both victim and indulger both in a category of shame. Most certainly for the victim, this is a wrong and perverted sense of justice. I wish I could change the hearts of evil men and women who are embarrassed by or degrade the value of sex victims, but I’m incapable of changing hearts. No one ever should shame a victim with, “It’s your fault for going to this place or doing that.” Or, “Why didn’t you tell someone sooner?” when speaking to a child victim. The justice system is so perverse in many places as either there is a hitch for getting out of sex crimes or the penalties are so pathetically pointless. In some countries the penalty is even born by the victim, not the wrong-doer. There is no hope for the victim in society for redemption or change.
For the indulger or even perpetrator, shame will follow him or her everywhere. The scarlet “A” that Puritans used to shame the wanton ways of immoral women is just one cultural example of that shame. In modern times, people may not force a physical scarlet letter, but the thoughts of blame and judgment remain. And one of my least favorite strain of thoughts from modern day is that “people never really change.” That’s a sentence of judgment for people who indulge in sexual immorality. There is no hope in society for redemption or change.
Still, you can be made new.
But you can’t be made new by yourself.
I have been both victim and indulger. As a victim, I look inside myself and see confusion. Love based on my heart is twisted. Sex hurts. It’s not something that’s awesome to be shared with my husband as an expression of love, because it’s been used as a tool to hurt me. Someone else’s selfish desires were placed above my own need to be protected. And born out of that I have trouble fighting back against sexual injustice committed against me. Hands and bodies rubbed across me for years after the first initial abuse. I found value in how much I was wanted sexually. Other victims of sex crime are incapable of enjoying intimate relationships because of trauma. Their own bodies and minds betray them as touches bring back memories of the crimes committed against them. There is no hope for the victim from within.
For me as an indulger, sex became a tool to seek revenge and to triumph myself over others. I continued to find value in how I was desired by others. I sought out that attention. Unchecked, my appetite for this type of attention and indulgence is voracious. I cannot hide within myself. All I see within as an indulger is hunger, terrible, terrible hunger. There is no hope for the indulger from within.
But there is hope for the victim and the indulger, whether man or women, that in Christ, a new creation can be made (2 Corinthians 5:16-21).
You can be made new by him who has the power over everything, even death (Mark 5:21-43).
He too has felt shame and can identify with you. He will take your shame like he despised his own shame (Hebrews 12:2)
He will take the punishment of your sin (1 Peter 2:21-25).
He will give you a new heart and new Spirit, which has pure desires and thoughts and intentions (Ezekiel 36:22-38).
He changes your identity (video from TGC).
When fears or desires from your past plague you, he can change your thoughts. He will give hope.
The good news is that though the world, societies, and even your own heart fail you, Christ will not. In the beginning, God, the Father, Son and Holy spirit, made the world, he made man and woman in his (their) image. God told man and woman to obey him, to love him with all their heart. They didn’t want to. They sought themselves as their own god, and so disobeyed him. Due to their disobedience, all humanity is cursed with sin and should expect a fearful judgment at death. Through them, we all fall short of the glory of God, both victims and indulgers.
In God’s perfect love, he sent Jesus to die for sinners so that they might have life. He loved God perfectly, something all humanity could not do. He healed people of all their ailments and broken hearts. He brought them hope that death would not bring judgment if they put their hope and trust in him. Though he didn’t deserve it as a sinless man, he died. He died and God’s wrath was poured out on him. That wrath is for sin.
Three days later he rose again, appeared to 500 people and taught them all that the scriptures said about him. At Pentecost, Jesus sent the Holy Spirit to renew the hearts of the believers, giving them a new heart and a new spirit. They loved one another with pure hearts, sharing everything in common, and having sweet fellowship with other believers. They had a new appetite for God’s word and a heart to always sing of his mercies despite the terrible circumstances they found themselves in.
They went out and proclaimed these truths, the life and hope of Jesus, and many would suffer death at the hands of persecutors. But they trusted in the hope that Jesus had given to them – at death, they could look forward to a new heaven and new earth where Jesus would be with them instead of the judgment that awaits those who continue to disobey and to live lives as their own gods. In this new heaven and earth, they would be given new bodies that had no curse and would never be sick or in pain again. They would always be with God, he who has always truly loved them.
If you believe in these truths and put your hope in Jesus, you too can have a new and changed heart. You too can be a new creation in Christ.
And for the victim and indulger, that means no more fear of shame. No more inability to fight your own desires. No more lingering bitterness. In Christ, the victim has the ability to forgive. In Christ, the indulger can be changed. In Christ, relationships can be pure and whole and sweet in a way that can never be apart from Christ. No shadow of sexual shame waits at the door to spoil the fellowship we have with others in Christ.
That’s why I’ve said it doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter what your story is.
In Christ, you are new.
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