Not too long ago, I attended a men’s weekend retreat. One of the leaders mentioned that, years earlier, he had chosen a “life verse” from the Bible that he memorized and lived by. He urged us to choose a life verse, as well.
I thought about that for a week. I love so many scripture verses that it was difficult to pick just one. But I finally settled on Romans 8:1: “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death.”
I have cherished this scripture for a long time. I decided to claim it as my “life verse.”
I grew up with a domineering father. He loved his family, but had a tough time showing it. However, he had no problems with expressing his anger and impatience. When things got under his skin, he would blow his top like Mt. Vesuvius. Depending on his mood, you could be on the receiving end of a drill instructor tongue-lashing or corporal punishment involving a variety of objects, including his hand, belt or, once out in the backyard, a Rototiller pull cord.
A kid internalizes this kind of abuse. I grew up thinking that I would never measure up. I allowed the voice of censure to have 24-hour broadcasting rights in my brain. When I made mistakes, I reaffirmed that I was a mistake. It was a miserable existence.
Then I came to faith in Christ. Slowly, like the sunrise peeking over the horizon, my darkened soul began to feel the rays of God’s warm love. Jesus came to me with words of grace, the Holy Spirit began to heal my weary heart.
Years ago, when I was a pastor, there was a man in one of my congregations who didn’t like anything I did. I don’t think I ever heard one word of encouragement out of his mouth. He reminded me of my dad.
Finally, one day, I invited him to my office for a gentle confrontation. It didn’t go well. He immediately went on the offensive, his mouth morphing into a flamethrower of abuse. I finally interrupted him and said, “Listen, I am not going to listen to that kind of talk. My dad abused me like that and I don’t have to put up with it.”
My critic growled, “I think he should have abused you even more.”
The conversation ended very soon after that. He never did try to make amends or talk to me any more after that. In my younger years, this would have devastated me. But not this time. Not ever again.
God’s word had made me strong – “Therefore, there is now no condemnation…” I knew that I had done the right thing in trying to offer reconciliation. I had stood up for myself, firmly but in love. I knew that I wasn’t perfect, but I had a perfect Savior who has freed me from sin. I lived under his life-giving presence, not under the soul-crushing words of mean-spirited people.
The Bible is not written with mere words. It is a divine word, breathed out by God, made alive and active by the Holy Spirit. No wonder John Wesley, the founder of Methodism, had this to say about the scriptures: “I want to know one thing,—the way to heaven; how to land safe on that happy shore. God himself has condescended to teach me the way. For this very end He came from heaven. He hath written it down in a book. O give me that book! At any price, give me the book of God!”
Do you have a “life verse?” How did you come about claiming it for your life? What does it mean to you? Please share and encourage others!