By Joshua Hughes
In his classic work Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis summarizes his first essay on the law of human nature by articulating two simple truths of humanity: “First, human beings, all over the earth, have this curious idea that they ought to behave in a certain way, and cannot really get rid of it. Secondly, they do not in fact behave that way.” He identifies these facts as “the foundation of all clear thinking about ourselves and the universe we live in.”
This is a thought I believe will reward a bit of meditation and consideration as we move toward Holy Week. Lewis is describing something that God, in his kindness, has placed in every human heart: a persistent witness to the reality of our brokenness, a voice that reminds us of who we really are when all pretense and posturing is stripped away. Despite our best efforts to tamp it down, to ignore it, to contradict it with self-affirming counter-narratives, we simply can’t overcome this voice. We may be able to suppress the truth in unrighteousness (Romans 1) at times, we be able to temporarily keep these feelings at bay through our therapy of choice (retail, culinary, pharmacological, etc.), but the truth remains and whispers to us in our quiet moments of “clear thinking” - we ought to behave in certain ways. We fail to do so. This is the guilt of sin we carry in our souls.
What does this have to do with Holy Week? Because the death and resurrection of Jesus give us an answer to the accusations of our inner witness. Because of the Passion of Jesus, we can respond to these accusations with full-throated affirmation: “Yes! It’s true! I am a sinner who knows how he should live and doesn’t live that way. I’m a rebel who has failed to do what God commands and has done what God forbids. This places me under the curse of God’s holy law and the punishment of hell… BUT CHRIST! My Savior bore the full weight of the law’s curse by becoming a curse for me (Galatians 3:13). He died and rose so that in him I might become the righteousness of God (2 Cor. 5:21), and sin has lost its power over me eternally. No condemnation now I dread, Jesus and all in him is mine!”
The bad news of our sin is so very bad. But that’s what makes the good news of our redemption in Christ so good! There is no satisfactory answer to Lewis’ facts apart from this. On Good Friday, Jesus offered his perfect life and his substitutionary death as payment for the sin that enslaves us. On Easter Sunday, Jesus rose in victory over the one who accuses us. We died with him, we will rise with him (2 Timothy 2:11).
Can I encourage you to do something this Holy Week? Allow yourself to face the weight of your guilt. Acknowledge the half-truth of that voice who accuses you, and then in joy, turn and see the Savior who liberates you from those accusations, who welcomes you with grace, who answers the guilt of your conscience with his beautiful substitution.
Shane Barnard wrote a song a few years ago that expresses this response beautifully, and I invite you to have your heart warmed by its truth.
The father of lies, coming to steal kill and destroy
All my hopes of being good enough
I hear him saying, “Cursed are the ones who can't abide!”
He's right. Alleluia he's right!
The devil is preaching the song of the redeemed
That I am cursed and gone astray I cannot gain salvation
Could the father of lies be telling the truth
Of God to me tonight?
If the penalty of sin is death, then death is mine
I hear him saying cursed are the ones who can't abide
He's right. Alleluia he's right!
Oh the devil's singing over me an age old song
That I am cursed and gone astray
Singing the first verse so conveniently over me
He's forgotten the refrain - Jesus saves!
He redeemed us from the curse of the law…