formation friday: no condemnation

formation friday no condemnation

years ago when my kids were little (and we only had a couple!) jose and i did scripture memory cards together as a spiritual practice (oh, those good old days).  it is amazing how many of those passages are still embedded into my heart and i am thankful for them in all kinds of ways. one of those passages that i remember memorizing was romans 8:1--“therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”  some of you might even remember that worship song that goes along with it.  i can belt it out like it was yesterday and it’s probably been over 12 years since i have heard it.

my experience has been that this verse is a very hard one for a lot of us to embrace on a practical level.

sure, many can say “because of Jesus i don’t have to live condemned any longer” but in the day-to-day experience of life there often lingers all kinds of real feelings of guilt, shame, falling-short-ness, self-loathing, and all-around-not-feeling-loved-and-secure.

during this month at the refuge we are walking through romans 8 together at our saturday night gatherings.  part of our hope this year is to restore some of the ways we interact with the Bible and learn to see it with new eyes.  it is so hard when so many have had such ugly experiences with it being used as a weapon to bring guilt & shame instead of freedom & hope.  sure, there are all kinds of things in romans that give me twitches but i am looking at those reactions not as a reason to shut the book but to ask God to reveal in fresh & deep ways what these passages might mean here, now. it’s been really good for me.

when it comes to this passage, i have a great sadness that so many people who love Jesus and have followed him for years and years often feel so unloved & unworthy & bound up. it’s nuts, really, all of the insecurity and locked-up-ness that pervades the christian church. it is supposed to be the place that restores sight & sets people free, not the opposite!

i have come to believe that one of the greatest sins is the giving ourselves over to the perpetual feeling of being unloved & unworthy.

for many, the world has given us a lot of reasons to believe this.  life has not been fair.  

for others, the church has given us a lot of reasons to believe this.  we’ve been taught a lot about our miserable wretchedness but not very much about our made-in-God’s-imageness.

learning to live without condemnation is no easy task but my hope is that more and more of find healing in that area so we can live more free and strong with the spirit of God constantly renewing and reminding us of the truth about who we are as God’s children.

holy. dearly loved. free. secure. worthy. treasured.

in the midst of our humanness.

i love the message version of this romans 8:1 passage:

[quote type=”center”]
those who enter into Christ’s being-here-for-us no longer have to live under a continuous, low-lying black cloud. a new power is in operation. the Spirit of life in Christ, like a strong wind, has magnificently cleared the air, freeing you from a fated lifetime of brutal tyranny at the hands of sin and death.”

read that a few times and consider:

what words or passages jump out at you?

how have you been you breaking free from condemnation and its low-lying black cloud?  

what condemning messages about yourself would you like to be cleared out this year so the sun can shine more brightly in your day-to-day life?

my ongoing practice is that when the ugly condemning thoughts come (because i can’t control them, only what i choose to do about them) that i picture God’s spirit gently blowing them away, so they don’t settle over my head, robbing me of life & love & peace.

have a great weekend. peace and hope, kathy

ps: if you are new here, every friday (or saturday sometimes) i’ve been posting a “formation friday” reflection.  other ones can be found here.

Kathy Escobar

Kathy Escobar is dedicated to creating safe and brave spaces for transformation and healing in real life, online, and outside. She co-pastors at The Refuge, a hub for healing community, social action, and creative collaboration in North Denver, co-directs #communityheals, a non-profit organization dedicated to making spaces for transformation accessible for all, and is the author of Practicing: Changing Yourself to Change the World, Faith Shift: Finding Your Way Forward When Everything You Believe is Coming Apart and several other books.


  • I need God here. Right here. If God loves me, where is S/He? Why is it so quiet? Sorry… I feel I’m pest. I memorized scripture too. Where did God go??

    • hey erin, so sorry for my late response to this. thank you for sharing. oh how i wish there was an easier re-boot. we weren’t taught what to do with these long seasons of desolation and not hearing God at all in ways we used to and the silence is so often unbearable. one way i am learning to look for God in new ways is to notice where IS something that brings life in my life. what lights something inside of me, no matter how big or small, where did i feel love or joy or peace (even if it didn’t last for long) and maybe consider that that could be God somehow. maybe the quietness is only in the old way we used to hear God and now there’s something new opening up that we’re not yet aware of as God somehow stirring. oh, how i wish we lived closer so we could have this conversation over coffee instead of the computer.

  • Oh it looks like even the youngest Escobars somehow got some of the cheery scripture songage transmitted. Jonas and Jared asked me tonight (I taught the kids about the Beatitudes), “isn’t there like a song about that or something?” Ha!
    I think that if if the shame/self-loathing/condemnation sin battle was a crime, it is very possible that I could be convicted of several felonies worth. Which makes me feel more ashamed. Yay vicious cycle? Er?
    The low lying black cloud part of the verse is the part that jumped out (and slapped me, haha) and struck a nerve. As for the condemning messages that I would like to be cleared out, or at least a little less obnoxiously loud are “You aren’t worth it”, “You can disappear and no one would ever notice because you don’t belong” and “You aren’t allowed to have needs.” For starters. But I do have hope, because those internal messages had ancestors were long-time residents, and those ancestors have been evicted. 🙂

    • that is so funny, jared asked me the same thing that night. i don’t know a beatitudes song, though, ha ha. it takes so long to shift these deep messages but so much hope comes from exactly this–being honest and starting to evict those oh-so-not-okay-to-live-there-anymore messages. the problem is that they don’t get the memo right away so often need re-eviction on a daily or even hourly basis. God, help us!

  • I thnk this issue is very common Kathy. Someone I was dating recently said she didn’t feel she could be loved and a comedian I know talks of his own self loathing, which he actualy uses for material in his act. So what happens at suc times? Well people become controlling, insecure and fearful. For myself, I have been carrying some false guilt. Giving myself too hard a time over something without realising it. And comign to the awareness that this is not how God sees me has been liberating. I now locically can see this, but it is taking time for the emotions to catch up. Old habits die hard. It takes me work and being around the right kinfd of peopl to keep on the right path with this. Easy to slip backwards.

    • thank you adam, yes, it is so prevalent and so sad. a good start is having safe places to actually say it out loud instead of keeping it inside, thinking we’re the only one. that usually leads to greater condemnation. when we realize that so many also struggle, it can help so much. i think it is the ongoing work of our lives and wont’ come in a rush but my hope for all of us is that greater healing will come over time as God’s spirit moves in our lives.

      • Indeed, and it is a tricky one is it not to determin how much and with whom to share. I have one or two close friends in which I can confide. Church life in general leaves me feeling lonely for the very reason you talk of Kathy I feell the only one. Condemnation comes when people put up their perfect “Christian masks”. Only when we take the risk of being judged, rejected even by letting such masks slip and be real with each other about guilt, self loathing “unloved, unworthy and bound up” that we talk of shall we see the work of God in our lives – interesting the thing about power you mention too in your lastest post being closely linked with this.

  • Thanks so much Kathy! Someone said recently that I was God’s masterpiece. So beautiful!

    I do the daily scripture cards too. I love them and they help me to remember God’s
    amazing love every day.

    My Dad died just a year ago. His alcohol addiction led him to do some not so nice things to our family growing up. He did quit drinking though, made amends about 10 years ago, and became an AA sponsor to so many sponsees whom I met at his funeral. Right before my Dad died, he asked Jesus to forgive him for what he did to his kids. Most of my life I have struggled with not feeling good enough but God redeemed all the bad for good in the end. My Dad is my with Mom and Jesus, and that is an awesome, wonderful miracle.


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