The surly young prisoner scowled at the judge.
The judge scowled back. "Son, the charges have been dropped. You are free to go."
The boy paled and his handcuffs rattled. "Whaddya mean?"
The judge glared over the tops of his glasses. "I mean, this is your lucky day. The charges have been dropped. Can't say I approve of it, but my hands are tied. You can go. Bailiff, release him."
As the bailiff stepped forward with a key, the young man pierced the judge with angry eyes. "What is this, some kinda joke? Who would do that? I thought I was lookin' at the death penalty. Why...Who?"
The judge cleared his throat and shuffled some papers. "The father of the young man you killed has asked us for leniency. The DA has agreed. Nothing I can do. You're cleared."
The prisoner's mouth gaped as his hands were freed. He glanced wildly about the empty courtroom. "No way! This is a joke, right?"
"No joke. I wish it was. Now get oughtta here."
The prisoner hesitated, then looked slyly at the judge. "I don't believe it. Nobody would do that. I killed...I mean...he said he saw me kill his kid. He was all for seeing me fry. Why would he...?"
The judge's lips tightened. "Frankly, I don't know. You're guilty as sin and I was looking forward to handing you the maximum.
"But the guy's got connections. He paid all your court costs and cleared you of any crime. He says to tell you he believes in you and to go and make something of your life. Makes no sense to me, but if you don't get out of here in about five seconds, I'm gonna put you back behind bars for contempt."
The young man's fists tightened. He turned from the judge to the bailiff and stuck out his wrists. "No. I don't believe you. It's a trick. You all know I did it, might as well say so. No father would do that. You're lyin'. Besides, even if ya'll are telling the truth, what I did needs punishment. I got my pride. I'll do my time."
Wouldn't that be an idiotic thing to say?
If you were that kid, given a chance at freedom, would you take it?
Are you sure?
Are you sure?
Aren't you doing the same thing?
That guilt you carry. That shame from your sin long confessed. The price has been paid, the sentence dropped; yet, you insist on living like the condemned.
When Jesus cried from the cross, "It is finished!" he meant it. Finished. Complete. Nothing could be added or taken away from perfection. The charges have been dropped.
When we confess our sin, God says he remembers it no more. Your record is wiped clean.
But like that young prisoner, we can't accept it. We wallow in self-recrimination, rehashing our mistake, dragging it back to the altar of God like a dog with a rotting carcass.
To insist on carrying a load of shame is as pointless as that young prisoner trying to pay a price no longer imposed. It was an insult to that bereaved father to imply that his sacrifice was not sufficient.
And it is an insult to your Heavenly Father to imply that His Son's sacrifice was insufficient to pay for your crime. Your record was wiped clean with that one statement: "It is finished." You cannot add or take away anything from the price He paid.
So are you trying to slip back into the handcuffs?
If you've admitted your guilt and accepted His sacrifice, then your Father has dropped the charges.
He believes in you. Leave your shame at the cross. Go and make something of your life.