Worse Than Being Pursued

For everyone who has ever doubted the force of His love, this is for you. Very few things have ever really “changed my life.” This is one of them.

From a sermon on Communion, this is Kierkegaard:

“‘Love (Christ’s love) covers a multitude of sins.’

“And is it not true that you have felt that, and precisely today, for a love that can cover your sins–therefore you are indeed going up today to the Lord’s altar. For while it is only too true what Luther says, that every human being has a preacher within him who eats with him, drinks with him, wakes with him, sleeps with him, in short, is always about him, always with him, wherever he is, whatever he does, a preacher who is called flesh and blood, lusts and passions, habits and inclinations–so it is also certain that in the inmost recesses of every human being’s heart there is a confidant that is just as scrupulously present everywhere: the conscience. A person can perhaps succeed in hiding his sins from the world; he can perhaps foolishly rejoice in his success, or yet, a little more truthfully, admit that it is a sorry weakness and cowardice that he does not have courage to become open–but a person cannot hide from himself.

“… whoever you are, even if you are, humanly speaking, almost pure and innocent–when this privy preacher preaches to you in your inner being, then you too feel what others perhaps feel more dismayingly, you feel a need to hide yourself; and even if you were told thousands of times and thousands of times again that it is impossible to find this hiding place, you still feel the need. Oh that I knew how to flee to a deserted island where no human being ever came or comes; oh that there were a place of refuge where I could flee, far away from myself; that there were a hiding place where I am so hidden that not even the consciousness of my sin can find me; that there were a boundary, even if ever so narrow, if it still makes a separation between my sin and me; that on the other side of a yawning abyss there were even a spot, even if ever so small, where I could stand while the consciousness of my sin must remain on the yonder side; that there were a forgiveness, a forgiveness that does not make the sense of guilt be increased but truly takes the guilt from me, also the consciousness of it; that were an oblivion!

“But now it is indeed so; for love (Christ’s love) hides a multitude of sins. See, everything has become new! What in paganism was sought and sought in vain, what under dominion of the law was and is a fruitless endeavor, the Gospel made possible. At the altar the Savior spreads His arms and precisely for the fugitive who wants to flee from what is even worse than being pursued, flee from what rankles. He opens His arms and says, ‘come here to Me’; and that He opens His arms already says ‘come here’; and that He opening His arms says ‘come here’ also says: ‘Love hides a multitude of sins.’

“He covers your sin quite literally, precisely because He hides it with His death… If justice were then to fly into a rage, what more does it want than the death penalty; but it has indeed been paid, His death is your hiding place. What infinite love!… He gives you Himself as a hiding place. Oh secure hiding place for the sinner… especially after first having learned what it means when the conscience accuses, and the law judges, and justice punitively prosecutes, then, exhausted to the point of despair, to find rest in the only hiding place that is to be found!

“Oh believe Him! Could you think the One who opens His redeeming arms to you, could you think Him guilty of wordplay, think Him guilty of using a meaningless phrase, think Him capable of using a meaningless phrase, think Him capable of deceiving you, and just at that moment–that He could say ‘come here,’and at the moment you then came here and He held you in His embrace, that it would then be as if you were taken prisoner; for here, precisely here there would be no oblivion, here with the Holy One! No, this you could not believe; and if you did believe it, you would certainly not come here–but blessed is the one who quite literally believes that love (Christ’s love) hides a multitide of sins. For a loving person, yes, even if it were the most loving, can lovingly judge with leniency, lovingly shut his eyes to your sins–oh but he cannot shut your eyes to them. By loving speech and sympathy he can try to mitigate your guilt also in your own eyes and to that extent, as it were, hide it from you, or to a certain degree more or less hide it from you–oh, but actually to hide it from you, so that it is hidden like what is hidden at the bottom of the sea and that what was red like blood becomes whiter than snow… and you yourself dare to believe yourself justified and pure–that only He can do, the Lord Jesus Christ, whose love hides a multitude of sins. A human being has no authority, cannot command you to believe, and just by commanding with authority help you to believe. But if authority is required even to teach, what authority, if possible greater than the One that commands the rough sea to be calm, what authority is required for commanding the despairing person, the one who in the agony of repentance cannot and dare not forget, the contrite person who cannot and dare not stop staring at his guilt, what authority is required for commanding him to shut his eyes, and what authority for then commanding him to open the eyes of faith so that he may see purity where he saw sin and guilt! The divine authority He alone has, Jesus Christ, whose love hides a multitude of sins.”

“Therefore my Lord and Savior, You whose love hides a multitude of sins, when I am quite sensible of my own sin and the multitude of my sins, when before justice and heaven there is only wrath over me and over my life, when on earth there is only person I hate and detest, one person I would flee, even if it were to the ends of the earth, in order to avoid myself–then I will not begin the futile attempt that surely only leads either deeper into despair or to madness, but I will flee at once to You, and You will not deny me the hiding place you have lovingly offered to all; You will screen me from the eyes of justice, rescue me from this person and from the recollection with which he tortures me; and You will help me dare… to remain in my hiding place… [for] it is not some grounds of consolation [You give], not a doctrine [You communicate], no [You give Yourself.]”

Kiekegaard, Soren, Discourses at the Communion on Fridays (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2011), 1974.

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5 thoughts on “Worse Than Being Pursued

  1. Wonderful! My husband and I were discussing this only 2 hours ago and your post confirms, lovingly, the extent of the blessed work of the Lord that we often have trouble grasping. Have you read Green Letters by Miles J. Stanford? He presents Romans 6-8 with a clarity that has opened my eyes in a new way, perhaps as yours were by Kierkegaard Thank you for taking the time to post this.

  2. We DO have trouble grasping it! Strange because it seems so simple. Maybe that’s the reason it’s so easy to miss. (Isn’t that the way with all the really great truths?) And yet, to grasp — to really and truly grasp — the weight of our sin and the magnitude of His holiness (at least, as much as our minds can fathom) is to know — perhaps for the first time– the need for a hiding place. I love how Kierkegaard underscored the fact that holiness without the Cross brings us to despair but Christ embraces us with hope and, yes, a hiding place. I can’t tell you what this means to me! I’ve always (subconsciously) understood love to be performance-based but Christ — the very One most deserving! — declares it is not so!

    Ok. I’m rambling. I could go on and on! And you know? We WILL go on and on throughout eternity, praising Him for all these things and so much more. Wow…

    No, I’ve not read that book! But I can tell what is next on my reading list! Thanks for the tip; I absolutely love to hear about the books that have shaped those whom I respect.

    Praying for you today!

  3. “…the one who in the agony of repentance cannot and dare not forget… who cannot and dare not stop staring at his guilt, what authority is required for commanding him to shut his eyes… then commanding him to open the eyes of faith so that he may see purity where he saw sin and guilt! The divine authority He alone has, Jesus Christ, whose love hides a multitude of sins.” Only Christ alone! Lord I believe; help Thou my unbelief! And even here, even now, and ever always He – the divine authority alone – gives me faith and sustains me with hope!

    Beautiful excerpt!

  4. I made up my mind I wasn’t going to forgive my mohter-in-law anymore! Every time I forgave her, she would do something mean and small again. I was just sick of trying to do the right thing. Wasn’t there something about the other person being sorry for being so hurtful and mean-spirited before you actually had to forgive them? But no matter how I twisted and turned my arguments to justify myself, I felt an increasing sense of discomfort. Unresolved grudges are like the little foxes that eat the vine,” gradually causing a schism that deteriorates our relationship with God. I became aware of this separation, while I stubbornly continued to struggle with anger and bitterness. In the meanwhile, praying was a chore and my spiritual life seemed dead. One day while I was sitting at the kitchen table thinking about my mohter-in-law and how much I really disliked her, the thought of forgiving her passed through my mind. I decided that I wouldn’t forgive her. No, not again! In fact, I was sure I had no desire or reason to forgive her. At once, I had a clear impression in my mind of the Lord saying, “That’s your sin and you need to repent. It is not that you don’t feel like forgiving her, but that you don’t even want Me to give you the ability to forgive her. Your emotions aren’t the problem, your heart is. Your willingness to forgive is necessary first.” I realized then that true forgiveness is an act of the will, not an emotional choice. I was deeply convicted and asked God for His forgiveness. Amazingly, my decision to let go of the hard feelings and resentment towards Mom immediately began to change my negative attitude towards her. A couple of weeks later, on Mother’s Day, after the church service, my youngest daughter asked if we could visit Granny on our way home. I had not seen Mom for weeks and didn’t know what to expect, but I knew I needed to make this effort. To my surprise, not only was Mom very happy to see us, but she gave me a Mother’s Day card with money in it and sent us back to the house with cash gifts for both of her granddaughters as well as for her son. From that time on my relationship with Mom continued to improve, and eventually grew into a deep and sincere love that was mutually affectionate.

  5. Neythan, what a humbling account of the magnificent grace of God! It always amazes me to see how He addresses the sin in our lives; how He is not content to allow us to remain there, but calls us to a fuller love with Him. And how wonderful that He is healing your relationship with your mother-in-law! Our God is so kind! Thank you SO much for taking the time to encourage the hearts of the saints today!

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