Who did it? What happened? Who is to blame? As much as we flee conflict, we hunt for the aftermath. Who doesn't love to wag a finger? When has anyone been at a loss for words when there's a judgment to utter? What has ever turned us off to laughing with others when we see someone fall into the ditch of sin? Which of us doesn't revel in recounting the lurid details about what he did, and she said, and how they ended up? When it comes to the question of "whodunnit" a whole genre of literature has been dedicated to revealing the answer.
It's when we're at the receiving end of that finger wag that we adjust our attitude about sin and judgment. We start to believe what the preacher says about Jesus, and his cross, our baptism, and the forgiveness of sin. Gossip isn't enjoyable anymore because it's about us. Suddenly, since it's us, we don't think the lurid details of who did what, and when, to whom should be public information. It shames us to feel what's it like to be treated like a social leper. Now we're the psychopath. We're the boogeyman. We're the unholy thing people at church refuse to embrace. We begin to believe that the back of the church isn't such a bad place to sit. We keep our head down, eyes locked onto our shoes. God doesn't listen to our prayers. How could anyone be as bad as us? A sinner? No. I'm the worst sinner ever. I am THE sinner. Everyone says as much.
We never considered what it's like to be treated like someone who's incurable until we're diagnosed with the same disease of self. "Brokenness" and "guilt" were sexy words we threw around in Adult Bible Study. Now, we can't bring ourselves to even open a Bible. We were always the winners. Our strength was made perfect in weakness, just like the apostle wrote. Now we're too tired to get up in the morning to go to worship.
Those who haven't experienced this don't know any better than we did until it happened to us We're accused, judged, and condemned. We're gaslighted by pastors and parishioners. "God could never forgive someone like you." "If you worked for the rest of your life, you could never earn back God's forgiveness." "There's no place in this church for someone as obviously sinful as you."
Our true identity is beaten out of us by gossip. Our name and reputation are tweeted and texted until people know us as mustache-twirling villains. Whatever judgment is heaped upon us is deserved. There's no negative opinion that's too novel if it's about us as horrible sinners. We're considered a tragedy by people who've never wept for salvation.
We used to be the right ones. You knew deep down that we were the saintly ones. The righteous. The good. And, "thank you, God," we prayed, "that we're not like those sinners."
We sat in a church that, in its pathological need to escape the truth about themselves, allowed untruth to reign. "Yes, we're all sinners," we confessed every Sunday. "But, some are more sinful than others."
The same church that invoked the name of Christ Jesus to celebrate its piety and privilege as God's beloved people, doesn't recognize us anymore. It no longer tolerates us or even the concept of us.
Or we can focus on Christ crucified for the forgiveness of sin. We can pray God gives this truth to us abundantly each day. That we live in it, living to pronounce it to each other. We can demand our pastors proclaim the truth about ourselves. We're fully sinful and that never changes this side of the resurrection. At the same time, we're fully righteous in Christ Jesus. We can focus on ourselves, that we are "the chief of sinners." We can stop boast-praying about our righteousness, and instead, stand at the back of the church, beat our chest, and confess, "God, I am THE sinner."
Of course, none of this will stop us, sinners, from behaving like sinners. But, in the power of Christ's resurrection, God's Spirit promises to preach the Gospel to us, baptize us in it, feed us on it, and set us firmly in the love of God in Jesus Christ so that we are set free from wagging our fingers and tongue-lashing "those people" whom Jesus died for on the cross.
We're ALL sinners in need of a Savior. We're all saints whose Savior forgives ALL our sin. Male or female, slave or free, Jew or Greek, we're all the same in relation to Christ crucified for the sin of the world.
So the next time the questions start to fly about "Who did it?" "What happened?" "Who is to blame?" Answer: "Jesus did. He died for our sin. He died for what he said, and what she did, and how they ended up."
We who flee conflict, but hunt for the aftermath are now set free by Jesus' forgiveness and love to tell other sinners, "the rest of the story," as Paul Harvey used to say.
"Jesus was raised from death for our justification, so I suppose one of us should go tell them."