Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.1 Corinthians 6:9-11
As I read through the list above, I thought of Nathaniell Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter where the character of Hester is forced to wear a scarlet “A” as a sign of public humiliation as an adulterer. Look at the list above. What if we had to wear a sign that depicted our past sins?
Some time ago, I spent a fair amount of time with a man who invested everything into his personal identity and it cost him everything. In the end, he destroyed his marriage, distanced himself from his children and created turmoil in his work environment. He could not get past the labels and so he felt hopeless in his position.
According to Paul, our labels do not have to be permanent. Our lives can be restored – not by our own efforts, but by the work of God in our lives. Paul notes that among the Corinthians, “such were some of you.” Likewise, we may have been sexually immoral, greedy or dishonest, or known to abuse alcohol, but we have been washed clean by Christ and are justified in the sight of God and we are being transformed through the ongoing work of the Spirit in our lives.
I am often reminded of John Maxwell’s quote that “failure does not have to be final.”