I’m not certain what possessed me to pick a fight with him.We’ll call him Peter Drake. He had almost every advantage on me. He was taller than I, and stood uphill from where I stood. He was older, and a better fighter than I was. I should have known this, because he was a known bully at school. But he was on our property and I felt that he should not be allowed to stay.
“Get off our property,” I commanded. My command was not particularly commanding. I may have been all of 9 years old.
“Who’s gonna make me?” His reply was defiant. He stood with arms on his hips.
“I am.” I had a weapon of sorts; a broken gooseneck lamp slung over my shoulder with a nylon belt. It would have made a formidable impact. “You want to fight?”
“I’m not going to fight someone with a thing like that slung over his shoulder.”
Foolish me: I dropped my makeshift weapon. His reaction was swift and on target. He landed a one-two punch right on my nose. I ran home crying. I don’t know how long Peter remained on our property.
Later that day, my dad tried to teach me to fight. He put up a makeshift punching bag and urged me, “Hit it!” I took a weak swipe. “Harder! Harder! Harder!!” I never really got into that. It’s never been my style.
Perhaps, however, that is a place where I should feel a bit bad. There is a battle raging all around you and me. St. Paul puts it this way:
Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might.11 Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil.12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. – Ephesians 6:10-12
I would much rather believe that we can all just get along. I’d rather hold to the idea that we can be friends, and that I need not take on intruders, forces of evil, and deal with fiery darts and stinging assaults of the enemy.
There is a legitimate need to feel bad about our sins. The term we use for such bad feelings is contrition. Contrition is sadness of the heart over our sins. We are feel bad that we have disobeyed God’s commands. We are sad that we have hurt our neighbor. We feel bad because we have damaged our relationship with God.
We ought to feel bad about failing to enter the fight against evil. But we need not fight without weapons of the Spirit. The helmet of salvation, shield of faith, breastplate of righteousness, belt of truth, and sandals of the gospel all offer protection from Satan’s ploys. The one offensive weapon we have is the sword of the Spirit, the word of God.
You might think that we should feel bad, perhaps, that we don’t know or use the word of God as skillfully as we should. Either we neglect to use it in times of temptation, or neglect to apply it when we are alone or afraid. Perhaps we even drop it in the face of those who belittle the word and dismisses this weapon as unworthy of our conversation. We too easily fail to bring the Word of God into a discussion of even significant moral issues. This is cause for contrition.
But that’s not the only move we need to make in regard to our sin. Contrition is a start, but it’s only a start. The fuller expression comes when we add faith to our bad feelings, and begin to act on what we confess. If God’s word is not in its proper place in our lives we must repent and believe the Good News. God forgives sins and has treasures of grace and truth in his Word for us to “read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest” (cf. Collect for the Word, below).
Don’t feel bad about feeling bad about your sin. Feel bad, then confess them, forsake them and follow Jesus.
Collect for the Word
Blessed Lord, who hast caused all Holy Scriptures to be written for our learning, grant that we may in such wise hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them, that by patience and comfort of Thy holy Word we may embrace, and ever hold fast, the blessed hope of everlasting life, which Thou hast given us in our Savior Jesus Christ, who liveth and reigneth with Thee and the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen. – The Lutheran Hymnal, p. 14