But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed. Isaiah 53:5-6
James 1:15b says, “…sin when it is fully grown brings forth death” (James 1:15b). Rape, abandonment, abortion, neglect, all forms of abuse, betrayal, and other similar actions are sin. They, therefore, lead to death. First, they lead to the everlasting spiritual death of the perpetrators who commit these sins (that is, if they are not atoned for by the shed blood of Christ on the cross). And, secondly, to varying levels, these sinful actions lead to the psychological (mental and emotional) deaths of those people who are victims of them. For this reason, I use the phrases “death-effects”; “facets of death”; “ different dimensions of death” and other terms when I speak of (or write of) the negative psychological ramifications of emotionally traumatizing sins. I am using death-terms to describe the different manifestations of psychological damage that results from soul traumatizing sins, because the Bible teaches that death is the result of sin. “Death-talk” is better than “psycho-babble” for describing the results of these sins, because death-talk more effectively communicates the real problem with these sins: they lead to death in the human soul; not just dysfunction in the human heart and head.
When we talk about the emotional ramifications of such soul-traumatizing sins in terms of death; we are much closer to understanding the problems which result from them, from a Biblical perspective. A seriously, emotionally-injured Christian is in need of experiencing the resurrection power of new life in Christ; not the worldly remedies of self-help books, yoga, endless therapy sessions, and recovery groups. Emotionally traumatizing violations are sins against the human soul which result in “soul-death”; they are not amoral actions for which there are no spiritual remedies. What the emotionally broken Christian needs for healing is the redeeming power of God’s healing grace; not self-reformation and inner-child-reconciliation.
Rape, abandonment, neglect, all forms of abuse, betrayal, and other similar actions are acts of violence in which the perpetrator destroys certain aspects of the victim’s soul irrecoverably. These actions are violations of a person at the most intimate levels of their humanity; they are assaults on the dignity that all humans intrinsically possess as those who are “created in the image of God.” The results of these violations naturally end in some form of psychological death. For example, these sins bring about the death of childhood innocence, the death of a general feeling of well-being or safety, and the death of an awareness of personal worth as one who was created in the image of God. Furthermore, there are less obvious “soul-deaths” which result from the aforementioned, emotionally traumatizing sins. There are issues of insecurity, chronic depression, rage, dysfunction, and other equally life-damaging consequences which result from these sins.
Beyond these obvious death-effects, victims of soul traumatizing sins often develop habitual sin-patterns that result in compounding their own emotional brokenness and increasing the deadening effects of the root sins. They are more likely than someone who has not suffered such a severe injury of the soul to fall into the strongholds of bitterness, unforgiveness, addictions, lying, rage, and other soul-destroying sin-patterns. Of course, in saying this, the trauma endured is not excuse an for one’s personal pet-sins. As the Lord has said, “The soul who sins shall die. The son shall not suffer for the iniquity of the father, nor the father suffer for the iniquity of the son. The righteousness of the righteous shall be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon himself” (Ezekiel 18:20). None the less, understanding the location of a sin’s root can make weeding one’s soul an easier task to perform.
Even so, all of our sin issues are dealt with at the cross of Jesus Christ. We are forgiven for our own sin, and we receive healing for the brokenness in our souls which result from the sins of others through our identification with Christ in His death, burial, and resurrection. True forgiveness and real healing come through identification with Christ on His cross. God does not reform our old person: He crucifies her, He buries her, and then He resurrects her in the likeness of Christ, so that she can walk in newness of life. That is what Romans 6:3-4 is saying, “…all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death… …We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.”
As a result of the Lord’s triumphal victory over death, the power of our sin-patterns and the power of the sins that were committed against us have been defeated. Through our union with Christ on the cross the manifold and shame-filled consequences of having been abused, abandoned, neglected, divorced, and betrayed have been put to death and buried with Christ in His tomb. Now, through our relationship with God in Christ, we can experience the victorious resurrection life of Christ over all of the different facets of sin-induced death which linger in our souls. For the believer, the death of Christ overcomes all death. For example, by the power of the cross, God gives us victory over our fear-driven unwillingness to be transparent and gentle in our relationships, and He also gives us grace to give up all of our controlling and manipulative behaviors. Praise God that through our union with Christ, God puts an end to our insecurity, our pouting, and our rage-filled communication. These sinful patterns need no longer rule our emotions or ruin our relationships. Christ overcomes them by the power of His cross.
We can appropriate (i.e., lay hold of, and in practice make our own) the awesome reality of Christ’s resurrection by prayerfully acknowledging the sufficiency of Christ’s death to atone for our own particular sins, and to heal the unique manifestations of brokenness and death which characterize our lives. In order to do this, we will need to evaluate, with uncompromised honesty, the circumstances, the situations, and the relationships which both effected our emotional brokenness, and which are currently being affected by our emotional brokenness. Then we can deal with these truths by bringing them to God on the basis of the finished cross-work of Jesus Christ. We can nail these past events to the cross by systematically and intentionally praying through each painful realty that the Holy Spirit makes us aware of in our lives. We can seek God to administer His healing grace to our souls, and be confident that He will do just that; because Jesus Christ shed His blood on the cross so that believers can walk in the joyful freedom of newness of life in Christ.
Therefore, let us be intentional about contemplating the death-effects that sin has brought about in our lives. Let us consciously and prayerfully name the specific sin-induced deaths which we have experienced. No amount of shame-filled remorse will change what sins were committed against us in the past; nor will any amount of shame-filled remorse change what we did in response to the sins that were committed against us. However, we can be honest with ourselves about the sins that we have committed, and about the sins that were committed against us. By honestly acknowledging the different dimensions of death which have resulted from those sins we can begin to appropriate what Christ has already done for us on the cross. We can begin to partake in the power of His resurrection- and walk in newness of life in Christ. It is by identifying with Christ on the cross – by acknowledging our own soul-deaths- that we will receive healing. Biblical healing results from identifying with Christ in His cross work. As Isaiah 53: 5-6 says; “…He was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed.”