Summary: Carrying the weight of guilt affects us, body, mind, and spirit. God's forgiveness of us and our forgiveness of others brings healing to our whole being.
March 3, 2021
Hope Lutheran Church
Rev. Mary Erickson
Forgiveness and Wholeness
Friends, may grace and peace be yours in abundance in the knowledge of God and Christ Jesus our Lord.
We aren’t like a car. You can take apart a car and put it back together. It’ll run just like it did before. When something goes wrong with a certain part – a timing belt or a worn-out battery – you can remove the busted part, replace it with a new one, and the car is as good as new.
A machine is only comprised of its physical pieces. But we humans are more complicated. We do have physical organs, yes, but we’re more than just that. The wholeness of who we are goes beyond just our mere physicality. Any doctor knows that a person’s health consists of more than their physical nature.
We’re comprised of mind, body and spirit. These three aspects aren’t independent of one another; they don’t operate in separate silos. Our emotional health can have a bearing on our physical health and vice versa. The health of our soul can also affect our mental and physical health, too.
In the story of Genesis chapter two, God formed the human being out of the dust. There was the fully formed human. But the human wasn’t living until God breathed into it. Something essential was missing until that breath was instilled. Our spirit, our living essence, comes from God, every bit as much as the body does.
All of who we are comes from God: body, mind and spirit. Life comes from God, and healing comes from God, too. It embraces us holistically. The body isn’t well if the spirit is broken.
The story we heard from Mark exemplifies this. Jesus was in the village of Capernaum. A huge crowd gathered in the house where he was. It was wall to wall people. While Jesus was speaking inside, outside there were some people who urgently wanted to see him. When they couldn’t elbow their way into the house, they thought outside of the box. They climbed up on the roof and started to dig a hole through it.
Imagine the clamor inside the house! You hear people chopping through your roof. All sort of debris starts falling down and then suddenly, blue sky! Faces peer over the hole. And then a remarkable sight. They start to lower a man through the hole on a pallet. Down he comes until he’s resting on the floor in front of Jesus.
The man is paralyzed. His friends have gone to great lengths to have Jesus touch him with healing power. Jesus speaks to the man. “Son,” he says, “Your sins are forgiven.”
This wasn’t what his friends had in mind. They were concerned with their friend’s devastating physical malady. They wanted Jesus to heal his spine. They wanted Jesus to restore his legs. But that wasn’t utmost on Jesus’ mind. Jesus focused on the man’s inner spirit. More than he needed to walk again, this man needed to hear that his sins were forgiven.
Only after he heals the man’s spirit, then Jesus heals his body.
We are more than just our body. It’s possible to be in tip top health. We can be an Olympic gold medalist. We can be 60 years old and have the rigor of someone half our age. But if our souls are languishing, then our whole self is brought low.
Guilt, forgiveness, and the lack of forgiveness all have dramatic effects upon a person. Feeling guilt and remorse can impact our health. Our immune systems are weakened. Prolonged guilt increases production of the stress hormone cortisol. It leads to insomnia and an overall sense of weariness. It feels like you’re carrying a heavy load.
David poignantly captured the effects of guilt in his Psalm 32:
While I kept silence, my body wasted away,
through my groaning all day long.
For day and night your hand was heavy upon me;
my strength was dried up as by the heat of summer.
There’s a deep connection between our body and our inner spirit. We’re more than just our body. The state of our mental health and our soul is intimately connected to our bodies.
Confession brought an end to David’s suffering. It was the start of his healing. His psalm continues:
Then I acknowledged my sin to you,
and I did not hide my iniquity;
I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord,”
and you forgave the guilt of my sin.
David’s confession was like a deep exhalation. All of the toxic things he’d been harboring inside were released: the denial, the justifications, the shame, the remorse. He handed it all over to God when he confessed.