by Michael J Klassen
“You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law. You have the right to speak to an attorney. If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be appointed for you.”
I couldn’t believe my ears. Listening to the officer read me my Miranda Rights, my world began to spin. I was 16 years old and 750 miles from my home in Denver, Colorado.
“Do you understand each of these rights I have explained to you?” the man asked me. His question jolted me back to this surreality.
“Yeah,” I muttered as I looked dejectedly at the ground.
That summer, my older sister and I worked for the company my dad owned. Most of our time was spent living in a motel in rural North Dakota. As our project came to a conclusion, my sister and I moved back home with much fanfare. Sipping from the cup of adulthood was exhilarating and satisfying. The pay was good, and Lori and I had gotten involved in a small church.
Never had I felt closer to God.
But before the summer ended, my dad needed me to venture out on one more business trip. This time, I accompanied another employee in his mid-20s.
We wrapped up our assignment early and decided to spend the evening at the Worlds of Fun amusement park in Kansas City. Unfortunately, we arrived 15 minutes too late. The amusement park was still open but they were no longer selling tickets. Despite our pleading, the park refused to sell us two more tickets.
That’s when my colleague hatched a plan to sneak into the park. Tom successfully transgressed the gates, but when I tried, a security guard caught me. That’s when the officer read me my rights.
Oh, and did I mention the t-shirt I was wearing?
The front boasted a picture of Yosemite Sam (from the Bugs Bunny movies) beside the words: HEAVEN OR HELL, TURN OR BURN. With my hands handcuffed behind my back, the ever-growing crowd of onlookers witnessed a new low in hypocrisy.
Long story short, I was never so humiliated and never so ashamed to be considered a follower of Christ. After agreeing to avoid the amusement park for the next 30 days, the security officers surprisingly released me…into the custody of my coworker who had enjoyed the amusement park at my expense.
Driving away, I promised myself that I wouldn’t tell my parents what happened for the next 10 years—and I didn’t. This defining experience devastated my walk with God.
Last week, I described the second deepest truth about you and me. Despite our best efforts and intentions, we’re all messed up. All of us are trapped in bodies and souls that cannot help but sin. Theologians call this “total depravity.”
Fortunately, this isn’t necessarily the deepest truth about us. In other words, our sins need not define us. If you’ve given the controls of your life to Jesus, then a deeper truth remains.
The apostle Paul wrote,
“To [the saints] God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. ” (Colossians 1:27 italics added).
What is the mystery that Paul is extolling? Christ lives in you! The deepest part of you isn’t you, it isn’t your sin, it’s Jesus. Your value doesn’t come from your gifts, abilities, not even your sin. Your value comes from being created by God and having Christ live in you.
Elsewhere, Paul explains:
“But if Christ is in you, your body is dead because of sin, yet your spirit is alive because of righteousness. 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. ” (Romans 8:10–11).
This is good news! Not only are you NOT defined by your sin, but you aren’t limited by it, either. That’s why we can say, “I can do everything through him who gives me strength” (Philippians 4:13). We always have hope for overcoming our addictions, ailments, and emotional distresses—always—if Christ lives in us.
Thirty years after my transgression, I’m still learning what it means to allow Jesus to define me. I’ll probably spend the rest of my life discovering what it means.
But for today, I have hope.