A Penance For Your Thoughts
Posted on May 5, 2020 by Catey Stover in Freedom Fighters
“For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 6:23 (NLT)
No matter what translation you search through the mainstay of Romans 6:23 is clear…put all your effort into a life that does no right and death will be your only reward. Every Evangelical, Charismatic, Pentecostal and what have you preacher will shout this from the rooftops. I have NEVER heard it said that God will honor your disobedience to Him. So, given that, why do we, at times, try to negotiate a reasonable punishment after we’ve sinned against a mighty God?
We can step back into time and take into account how Cain handled things. It started with a not-so-good sacrifice that turned into jealousy that turned into murder that led to this statement, “Am I my brother’s keeper?’ Well, God answers how God answers, “You are cursed from the earth” to which Cain replies, “and it will happen that anyone who finds me will kill me.” Yes, this is a hyphenated version of the conversation but if you read the whole passage, you’ll see how Cain’s plea is an example of someone who understands the severity of their wrong but being able (no pun intended) to face its consequences is an entirely different thing.
Now somewhere around the year 1563 A.D., the Council of Trent formally established that there were seven sacraments (or duties) that Christians received. The one that makes me lift an eye brow to is the sacrament of penance. Penance was a pretty elaborate thing back in its day. A truly contrite sinner would confess their sin to a priest, who would give instructions, grant absolution (release from guilt), then that freshly renewed person would perform a task that demonstrated repentance, therefore paying the temporal penalty for their filthy, double-mindfulness.
In my younger days I would go into a confessional booth, recite my laundry list of sins that I thought I committed and then the voice on the other side of the screen would give me a laundry list of prayers to recite, then “absolve” me from my sin. What became a problem for me was that this version of penance was so tedious, so laborious and BORNG!! You woulda thought that if I felt this way, I would stop sinning but to this day, that still hasn’t happened. So, I finally realized that there was gonna be no absolution given to me through all this and I stopped my visits to the booth.
Maybe if I had lived in 1563 A.D., all I would’ve needed to get me some absolution was money. Yes, you heard that correctly, money woulda got me outta doin’ any act of penance. To get around doin’ penance, all a filthy, double-minded sinner had to do was to pay an “indulgence”. Through the purchase of an indulgence, a filthy, double-minded sinner was exempt of doin’ their duty of penance. However, as time went by, people perceived this as purchasing forgiveness for being a filthy, double-minded sinner. Rumor has it the money was used to rebuild St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome. Anyway…
I’m not too sure if Jesus would have been okay with any of this indulgences stuff. He had huge issues with money-changers and the folks who sold animals meant for sacrifice. He knew we were trying to negotiate a reasonable punishment after we’ve sinned against a mighty God but that didn’t keep Him from going to Cross as the ultimate sacrifice to bring an atonement we don’t deserve. There was something else the apostle Paul wanted us to understand…
“For sin is the sting that results in death, and the law gives sin its power. But thank God! He gives us victory over sin and death through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Cor 15:56-57)
There’s a phrase that I’ve come to appreciate, “The bill comes due, always”. For me it speaks to consequence, a time of reckoning that cannot be avoided. I don’t think we can stand before a Mighty God and play Cain, we’re beyond that now. However, I don’t think it’s a good idea thinking that we try and pay off our responsibility of repentance, we know better than that…or do we?
It was never God’s intention for us to live in slavery to sin, on the contrary, He wanted us to find our freedom living in Him. When that got disconnected, He saw fit to plot a course for us, not only find redemption but to say yes to its representative, Jesus Christ. All the money in the world might bring you prominence but it’ll never get you the peace provided by the Savior of the world. Maybe things would be better if all we indulgenced on was Him. Amen?
Written by Chris Hughes: Chris, a graduate of The Colony of Mercy (11-2003) has been married for 25+ years (Kathy), has a married son (Kevin) and a daughter in college (Karen). He has been a Freedom Fighter contributor since 2008. You can email him at email@example.com
Think About This: “The community of the saints is not an “ideal” community consisting of perfect and sinless men and women, where there is no need of further repentance. No, it is a community which proves that it is worthy of the gospel of forgiveness by constantly and sincerely proclaiming God’s forgiveness” — Dietrich Bonhoeffer
This Week’s Verse to Memorize: “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you” –Matthew 5:43-44
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the doctrinal and theological views held by America’s Keswick.