The witnesses laid down their garments at the feet of a young man name Saul. . . . And as they were stoning Stephen. . . Saul approved of his execution. (Acts 8:1)
It’s hard to imagine anything more vicious. As a hail of rocks, thrown in hate, smashed life from Stephen’s body, the young man Saul stood by giving his approval.
For the rest of his life, Saul remembered his role in that terrible execution. As an old man, he wrote to a young friend, “I am the foremost among sinners.”
Perhaps you, too, have a memory of shameful things. Perhaps you seriously harmed someone else. You cringe to think of it. The memory lingers in your mind and haunts your spirit. You are a prisoner to it. It never goes away.
One response is denial. Pretend it never happened. But you know the truth. Denial hides the sin but does not erase it. It continues to gnaw at your soul. Another is to surrender to it and live in the shame. But still it clings and drags you down, twisting your life into a pretzel of troubles.
There is a way to freedom. It happens not by denial but by confession, not by surrender but by redemption. Saul, in Christ became Paul. He wrote “there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1).
Shame became gratitude for forgiveness. Forgiveness inspired love. Love became a longing to serve. The shame was great, but God’s grace was greater still.
“Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners” (1 Timothy 1:15) Paul wrote. That offer is for you, too, this very day. You can be free.
Jesus, I have done some terrible wrongs. I am a sinner. Have mercy on me!