As a couple drove their trailer through dry Northern California, they felt a tire blow and heard the scrape of metal against pavement. The sparks ignited the 2018 Carr Fire—a wildfire that burned nearly 230,000 acres, destroyed more than 1,000 homes, and resulted in the deaths of several people.
When survivors heard how the couple were overcome with grief, they formed a Facebook page to show “grace and extend kindness . . . for the shame and despair” enveloping them. One woman wrote: “As someone that lost their home to this fire—I need you to know my family [doesn’t blame you], nor [do] any of the other families that lost homes. . . . Accidents happen. I really hope these kind messages ease your burden. We will all get through this together.”
Condemnation, our fear that we’ve done something unredeemable, can cannibalize the human soul. Thankfully, the Scriptures reveal that “if our hearts condemn us, we know that God is greater than our hearts” (1 John 3:20). Whatever our hidden shame, God is greater than all of it. Jesus calls us to the healing act of repentance (if needed) or simply unmasks the shame consuming us. Then, encountering divine redemption, we “set our hearts at rest in his presence” (v. 19).
Whatever our regrets over things we wish we could undo, God draws us near. Jesus smiles at us and says, “Your heart is free.”
How have you experienced shame or condemnation? What does it mean for you to know that Jesus has freed your heart?
John’s first letter begins in a way similar to the beginning of the gospel of John (1:1–4). In both his letter and gospel, he reflects the wonder of someone who’s seen the eternal Word of God with his own eyes (John 1:1–3; 1 John 1:1–4). In both books he develops the themes of what it takes to live in the presence of One who personified light, life, and love. But there are also some important differences. John’s gospel focuses on the ways Jesus revealed Himself to men and women who never could’ve guessed that the life, light, and love of God could be revealed from an executioner’s cross. John’s first letter, on the other hand, works as an appeal to those who knew the story but were in danger of forgetting what a lack of love for such a God—and one another—means.