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.