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I was on my journey toward the Catholic Church and toward becoming a Christian, but I wanted to understand what was going to happen with all my sins. One day I heard a speaker tell a story that helped me in this regard.
In the 1700s, there was a great Indian tribe, blessed in every regard. The chief was a strong leader whose word was the law. Everything was going fine, and the tribe’s people were thriving and doing well. They never had any problems. Their enemies didn’t bother them because they were strong, with a strong leader.
But then a problem arose: someone was stealing. The chief said, “When we find that man, we’ll give him fifty lashes at the hand of the taskmaster.” But the stealing continued.
Then the chief spoke again: “When we find the thief, we will give him one hundred lashes at the hand of the taskmaster.” One hundred lashes would kill most men!
One day they found the thief. It was the mother of the chief. A great hush fell over the people and they asked, “Is he going to satisfy his law?” Because when the chief spoke, his word became the law. “Will he satisfy his law, or will he satisfy his love?”
The chief loved his mother very much, but when the day for the punishment came, they brought her into the middle of the compound. She was a small, frail woman. They ripped her clothes from her, exposing her back, and bound her hands and feet.
Again a hush came over the people. Everyone wondered if the chief would satisfy his law at the expense of his love.
The chief raised his hand, and the taskmaster, muscles bulging, came forth with a huge whip in his hand, certain to kill the woman. The chief raised his hand and said, “Let the punishment begin.” The people could not believe it; the chief was going to satisfy his law at the expense of his love.
The taskmaster drew back to deliver the first blow, and then the chief raised his hand again. Everybody gasped and said, “Oh, he’s going to satisfy his love at the expense of his law.” But then the chief took off his robe and headdress and handed them to the attendant, exposing his own strong back. He went over to where his mother was bound hand and foot, stretched out his arms, and covered his mother with his own body. “Let the punishment continue,” he said. In that way he satisfied his law and his love.
The speaker who told the story went on to explain that Jesus Christ has covered our sins, because Scripture says, in the Letter to the Romans, “The wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23).
I knew that I was a sinner. But Jesus had covered me with his body and his own blood. In my heart, I knew he was saying, “Father, see my body; see my blood, shed at Calvary for Larry. Don’t count his sin against him.”
With this new understanding, a passage in the Book of Isaiah became clear to me:
But he was pierced for our sins,
crushed for our iniquity.
He bore the punishment that makes us whole,
by his wounds we were healed. (Isaiah 53:5).
After that, more of the Scriptures began to make sense. Psalm 103 spoke to me directly: “I’ve separated your sin as far as the east is from the west, and I remember it no more” (cf. verse 12).
All these things were becoming clearer to me and helping me understand what being a child of God means. That story about God’s love and his law had a great influence on my life; it was the beginning of my building faith upon faith.
From afar the Lord appears:
With age-old love I have loved you;
so I have kept my mercy toward you. (Jeremiah 31:3)
As the story of the Indian chief makes clear, God can bring great things from what is bad. He can redeem any situation.
But why do bad things happen? For various reasons, of course. Sometimes it’s clear, and sometimes it’s not; the bad thing just seems random. And sometimes you cannot understand why certain things happen to you versus someone else or no one at all. Even worse, when you see others getting something good, it can be hard to be happy for them and not upset for yourself.
People often choose to blame God when bad things happen; perhaps you do too. You might feel free to because. in the back of your mind, you know that God will still love you.
Over the next week, if something happens that upsets you, take it to God in prayer. It’s okay to ask him questions, to seek his wisdom. Ask the Holy Spirit to guide you in your response to the situation. Ask for understanding. Even if perfect understanding doesn’t come all at once, or ever, you may find that you understand better ways to pray about the situation.
Pray for good to come out of the incident. Pray that you can act in holiness and that you receive wisdom about how you should respond. Over time, as you do this, situations will lose their power to distress you as much. You will automatically go to God first and allow the Holy Spirit to guide you through all things.
Read Deacon Larry Oney’s inspiring personal testimony in Amazed by God’s Grace: Overcoming Racial Divides by the Power of the Holy Spirit (The Word Among Us Press, 2018). Available at wau.org/books