In David Blight’s remarkable biography of Frederick Douglass, he recounts how Douglass grew up an orphan. He never knew who his father was, and that haunted him all his life. He had only one faint memory of his mother, which he cherished and expanded with his vivid and personifying imagination.
The most probable theory of the paternity of the most famous abolitionist of the nineteenth century is that his slave master was his father, a product of the sexual abuse of his enslaved mother.
Douglass grieved at the thought that his own father would own him as a slave, and he insightfully wrote, “Men do not love those who remind them of their sins — unless they have a mind to repent — and the mulatto child’s face is a standing accusation against him who is master and father to the child” (Blight, 16). What a powerful statement! Put that in the back pocket of your mind; we’ll come back to it in a moment.
The Apostle Paul wrote, “For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing, to one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life.” (1 Corinthians 2:15-16, ESV)
Paul knew that his message about Jesus would draw many in, but that it would also repel some. Why? Quite frankly, the crucifixion is not a flattering look for a religious leader, especially one who claims to be divine. But to Paul, this is the essence of the gospel’s power and message.
God the Father has delivered his people from the power of Satan, from the domain of darkness and condemnation for sin. How? By the blood of the cross. On the cross, his beloved Son bore the penalty that we deserved because of our sins. He hung there as a substitutionary sacrifice for us. What amazing love!
But like Frederick Douglass said, “Men do not love those who remind them of their sins — unless they have a mind to repent.” How true! Envisioning Jesus hanging upon the cross cannot draw you to Jesus unless you have a mind to repent, because Jesus reveals the heinousness of our sin, and you will never love him unless you are willing to lay down your sin and submit to Jesus as Savior and Lord. When you do, then and only then can you be truly delivered and redeemed and forgiven. It’s a promise!
Apart from humbling yourself and confessing and repenting of your sin, Jesus’ sacrifice will not remind you of God’s love and so draw you in, but it will only remind you of your sin and so drive you away.
If you’re not a repenter and a believer in Jesus, you should be and you can be. The Holy Spirit still draws sinners to see the beauty of Jesus, to see the love of God displayed. I pray you would know such love during these grievous and tumultuous days.
Garrett Walden is a pastor at Grace Heritage Church in Auburn, and he's a 6th grade teacher at Auburn Classical Academy. He's an Auburn University alum living in Opelika with his wife and three kids.