When I was in high school, I hated P.E. in any and all of its variations. Running? No thanks. Archery. Not my thing. Square dancing? Don’t even ask. But the worst segment of all? Swimming. What evil tyrant decided it was a good idea to put developing teens of both sexes in the same room, half-naked and dripping wet? It wasn’t an attraction issue – I don’t remember thinking anyone looked particularly good. All I remember is fretting that I looked really bad. And I’m sure I did. Insecurities run high, especially in women, and particularly in young, hormonal girls — and in any female in a swimsuit. To add insult to injury, my school provided the swimsuits. Color. Coded. By. Size. As if I didn’t feel self-conscious enough, I had to request a red suit – which meant extra large. (To be fair, one of the small sizes was also red, but there was a substantial enough difference that no one would confuse the two.) And to add insult to injury, most of the suits were outrageously stretched out from the other extra large parts most of the bigger girls had. Unfortunately, I did not, so I had to tie the straps together in back with my shoelace to keep the suit from falling off.
Some people dread coming to church as much as I dreaded swimming class, certain that everyone can spot their sins, convinced that the “churchy folk” are pointing at them saying, “She had an affair,” or “He was arrested,” or [fill in the blank]. We have trouble believing that our sins wouldn’t matter. We have trouble seeing ourselves for who we really are because we have accepted the enemy’s lies about us. We say we have faith but perhaps we don’t really believe God forgave us as He said He would. When we allow our self-identities to be defined by what we’ve done wrong, we’re essentially walking into church in color-coded suits. Adulterer? Scarlet. Addict? Green. But that’s not what church is about. As a member of God’s church, we must be careful not to “color code” those who walk in the door. It’s not our place to assign someone a category, to assume we know who they are because we know what they’ve done.
And, more important, it’s not how God functions. He says though our sins are as scarlet they will be white as snow. When we repent, when we truly understand that our behavior is preventing us from being as close to God as we could be, when we are willing to turn away from what is hindering us, then we can be confident when we approach the Lord. We can come together with God’s people, free of judgment, free of condemnation. Knowing we’re clothed in garments of righteousness, assured of our identities as children of the King, and able to stand tall and confident and without shame before Him.