Those of you who know me well might be surprised to learn that during my senior year of high school, I got sent to the principal’s office. As a middle born authority-pleaser, I’ve always followed the rules, perhaps to the point of priggishness. I suspect Mother Teresa got in trouble more often than I did.
Normally the thought of having a teacher even mildly annoyed with me would tie my stomach in knots. I hated being guilty as much as I hated getting caught. And there I was, busted to the Big House. Yet, odd as it seems, while I waited for Mr. Davis to come decide my fate I didn’t feel at all upset.
Why not? Simple. I knew I was blameless. Here’s the case history: My friends and I were in the habit of playing the card game “Spades” in the cafeteria during lunch. We played for nothing but points and no one ever bothered us about it. That day, I had brought a deck of cards but we used someone else’s. A boy in my English class asked if he could borrow my cards. He would give them back in class. “Sure!” I handed them over without a thought.Turns out, my classmate had bigger stakes in mind. The guys got caught playing poker for money, with my cards, which were promptly confiscated. So I had to go retrieve them from Mr. Davis himself. First he tried to lecture me on the evils of gambling. It fell a little flat because I totally agreed with him. I wasn’t trying to be rebellious or anything, but I just didn’t feel guilty. Having loaned a classmate something in all innocence, I felt no more responsible for his behavior than I would if I had loaned him a pen and he used it to write a hate note to the Ag teacher.
Finally Mr. Davis shrugged, advised me not to let anyone else play with my cards, and gave them back to me.
I thought of this not long ago, while reading the New Testament book of Jude, verses 24 and 25. At only 25 verses, this punchy little letter is usually counted as the 4th shortest book of the Bible. A brief phrase in the last paragraph caught my eye. Jude, the writer, offers praise “…to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling, and to make you stand in the presence of His glory blameless with great joy…”
Blameless, with great joy.
Jude did not put together two random characteristics, like “tall, with a laptop” or “intelligent, with a spatula.” The laptop has nothing to do with a person’s height, and spatulas bear no relation to brain power. No, in Jude’s letter, experiencing joy in God’s presence has everything to do with being blameless.
God, our Creator, is sovereign over the universe, even more powerful than the high school principal. He gets to call the shots, which is great because he rules with perfect justice. Most of us want to go to his heaven when we die, but none of us can live a good enough life to qualify for a spot. Bad news, right?
Right, but the good news is that God does not expect us to qualify. Jesus came to earth as a human and lived a perfect, blameless life. When he gave up his life on the cross, he was not paying for any blame of his own, but for ours. Then God raised him from the dead, conquering death and dancing on its finality. When I acknowledged my guilt and trusted him, he paid the debt of guilt for me–and credited his perfection, his blamelessness, to my account. That same transaction is available to anyone who will simply ask him for it.
For me, guilt is the worst feeling in the world. A clear conscience is the best. I could never have cleared my own conscience, but Jesus is able to make me stand in the presence of his glory, without fear because I am blameless. And that gives me great joy.
I hope, if you have not already found the joy of blamelessness, this will be your year to do so.
And that you won’t even have to go to the principal’s office.
Thanks for reading,