In high school I read The Scarlet Letter, a novel about a Puritan woman who is marked with the letter “A” for an act of adultery. Despite living a life of repentance and good deeds afterward, she is shunned by the community and forced to raise her illegitimate daughter on the outskirts of town. The condemning label on her chest becomes so much a part of her that when she attempts to take it off, her daughter does not recognize her and insists she put it back on. She bears the brand of that one sin all her days.
Sunday’s paper ran a story about a three-year-old boy who found a loaded gun in his house and accidentally shot and killed his father. Having a three-year-old boy myself, the story was almost more than I could bear. I imagined that little boy’s future — the absence of his daddy, the questions, the hurt, and the guilt. I don’t know where his life will take him, but I imagine that one innocent act will mark his circumstances, his mindset, and his heart forever.
In this broken world we all bear marks of destruction. We’re wounded by severed relationships, prejudices, bad choices, physical maladies, or any number of painful experiences. No matter where our marks come from, they are more than letters we wear on our chests. They get down inside us, course through our hearts and minds, and change how we think and act.
Yet despite their power, they are often quite subtle, doing their quiet work of destruction as if from the shadows. Regret, shame, loneliness, distrust, bitterness, pride, fear — whatever our scars, they become part of who we are. They affect our spirits so profoundly that to make a single move apart from their influence seems impossible.
But we have a God who majors on the impossible.
The brands we bear are nothing compared to the Lord’s mark upon us: “Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession — to the praise of his glory.” – Eph. 1:13b-14
The mark of God, seared on our souls, will demolish the feeble scars of our flesh. And it starts now.
“Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death. And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit, who lives in you.” – Rom. 8:1-2, 11 [emphasis mine]
We don’t have to live according to the marks in our flesh. We don’t have to believe the labels. Almighty God wipes away the marks of destruction and seals us as His own. No matter how the world sees us or how we see ourselves, the incorruptible life of Christ is now the truest thing about us.
Our chains are gone.