In Tolkein’s classic The Fellowship of the Ring, the Lady of the Woods, Galadriel, says to Frodo the Hobbit:
“You are a ring-bearer, Frodo. To bear a ring of power is to be alone. This task was appointed to you. And if you do not find a way, no one will.”
The statement stands in the shadow of Jesus for the Christian. Jesus, who prayed in the garden that if there was a way, some other way, than for Jesus to bear the weight of sin, then let it be so. But the answer came back from the Father to the Son. This is a task appointed for Him alone. There was no other option. God, in His providence, had decided it would be so.
And so Jesus courageously, resolutely, agreed, and He bore the crushing weight of sin. He, and He alone did this. And He did it for you, and for me.
Because Jesus bore our sin, we can live in the glorious freedom of being in right standing with God. We can day by day live with the full knowledge that we are the righteousness of Christ, untainted by sin, and welcome into the family of God. Amazingly, mysteriously, even today when you and I sin, for indeed we will, we can know that Jesus has already born that sin as well.
Once and for all. It is finished.
But there is another result that comes from Jesus bearing our sin, not in part but the whole. Namely, we can own our sin because Jesus bore our sin.
Owning our sin is not the same thing as bearing our sin. It is not feeling a sense of condemnation for the sinful acts we still commit. Nor is it trying desperately to earn our way back into God’s good graces. Jesus has taken care of those things already. Instead, owning our sin means acknowledging our sin without self-justification or equivocation.
This is particularly relevant for us, who are part of and minister inside of a culture that is increasingly unwilling to own responsibility and consequence. We all have been reared inside a system of blame-shifting and self-exoneration. But because Jesus has borne our sin, we can stop this cycle. We can, with humble confidence, actually do the simplest of things. We can own our sin, without blaming someone else or looking for some hidden underlying cause that shifts the focus from ourselves, because Jesus has borne out sin, not in part but the whole.
What does that ownership look like for us today, as young adults and as those who minister to young adults? A number of things:
- It means we do not have to feel the need to offer a circumstantial explanation of why we were forced to do the wrong thing.
- It means we can freely apologize and ask for forgiveness without feeling the need to explain ourselves.
- It means we can humbly stand under the temporary consequences for our sin without feeling the need to escape.
It is a strangely beautiful thing to behold, a Christian who humbly acknowledges his or her sin and yet is not crushed by the weight of it. But such is the confidence of who knows they have been found, now and forevermore, in Christ and in Him alone.
Michael Kelley lives in Nashville, TN, with his wife, Jana, and three children: Joshua (10), Andi (7), and Christian (5). He serves as Director of Groups Ministry for Lifeway Christian Resources. As a communicator, Michael speaks across the country at churches, conferences, and retreats and is the author of Wednesdays Were Pretty Normal: A Boy, Cancer, and God; Transformational Discipleship; and Boring: Finding an Extraordinary God in an Ordinary Life. Find him on Twitter: @_MichaelKelley.