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The Vest of Shame: A Modern Parable

The State of Tennessee has been experimenting with a new
deterrent to drunk driving. They have a policy where if someone is
caught driving under the influence, they end up wearing a bright
orange or green vest with  “I AM A DRUNK DRIVER" emblazoned across it
while cleaning up the roadsides. It’s a bold strategy, right? But it is
also a great parallel to a deeper spiritual issue. How often do we
find ourselves “vested” in our own sins, allowing them to define

Let’s reflect on a story from Scripture- the encounter between
Jesus and the Samaritan woman at the well (John 4:16–29). In
their conversation, Jesus gently exposes the reality of her life- her
series of failed marriages, and her current living situation with a
man who was not her husband. But what strikes me most is her
reaction after Jesus reveals her life story. She runs to her town,
exclaiming, “Come, see a man who told me all that I ever did. Can
this be the Christ?” Obviously, Jesus didn’t recount ALL of this
woman’s good deeds and terrible mistakes. But because she
wore her sin of adultery like a vest, she felt that He had done just

Many of us go to our internal closet day after day and select a
heavy vest of failure to wear. The vest may say “Thief”, “Addict”,
or “Divorced.” We may try to cover it with a nice dress or blazer,
but the vest is never far beneath the surface. The problem is, no
matter how long we wear it, we never feel that our sins have been
paid for. We long to “do” something to offset the weighty guilt that
we carry around.

But Scripture takes a totally different approach for dealing with our
sin. It is simply called: forgiveness.

We often fall into the trap of thinking that forgiveness is easy, like
erasing a board. We offend, apologize, and assume it’s all
wiped clean. But true forgiveness is costly. Someone always has
to pay! Forgiveness means absorbing the cost, not just pretending
the sin never happened. A business owner’s forgiveness may look
like absorbing the cost of the stolen items. A spouse’s forgiveness
may look like absorbing the pain of betrayal, and choosing to love
still. A child’s forgiveness may include absorbing the pain of
neglect, and choosing to care for an aging parent in need. In any
case, forgiveness is never cheap.

Now let’s get back to the forgiveness we all need from a holy
God. Because God is just, our sin must be paid for in order for us
to have peace with Him. This creates a cosmic dilemma: how is
God to forgive, or absorb, our sins, without compromising His
Holy Nature? This is the most beautiful picture in all of the Bible:
Jesus Wore The Vest.

See, when Jesus died on the cross, he wore your sin and my sin.
God’s Word explains it so clearly:

1 Peter 2:24 (NASB95)
"and He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, so
that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His
wounds you were healed."

When Jesus died on the cross, he bore our sins. He hung on the
cross and was punished for us. Our sin cost him his very life.
The point is this: When God forgives, He can't just say, "Forget it, it's
no big deal!" God has never overlooked a sin! He is totally just. But
what He did do was judge our sin in Jesus.

Then, because our sins were completely paid for, God raised
Jesus from the dead. The debt was settled. The last thing Jesus
cried from the cross before He died was, “It is finished.”

How wonderful to know that if you are in Christ, you get a new
vest. You are now clothed with His righteousness, peace, joy,
love, and glory!

Zach Terry

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