Tearing Off Your SCARLET Letters

Ben CerulloBy Ben Cerullo7 Minutes

Too often, people think their dismal past will inevitably keep them from a happy future. They are painfully aware of their past mistakes and negative tendencies, and they wonder if things can ever get any better.

I wasn’t much of a student in high school, but many of my classmates were reading Nathaniel Hawthorne’s famous novel, The Scarlet Letter. Set in 17th-century Puritan Boston, the book tells the story of Hester Prynne, who is required to forever wear the letter A on her dress after her adultery is discovered.

Think of what it would be like if this kind of punishment was enforced today. What if everyone who has engaged in sex outside of marriage was required to wear a scarlet A for adultery or S for shame?

But many of us deal with different kinds of scarlet letters. Perhaps it’s a scarlet F for Failure or Fat, R for Rejected, I for Inferior, U for Unemployed, B for Bankrupt, or D for Depressed or Divorced.

You get the picture. Life’s scarlet letters can be customized to fit your personal situations. If we’re not careful, our negative experiences can become our identity.

Yes, many people—even many Christians—are carrying around internal guilt, inferiority, and shame that are not much different than Hester Prynne’s cruel punishment. Unable to believe God has truly forgiven them, they’re still wallowing in their past mistakes.

The Message of Redemption

I love the Gospel of Jesus Christ, because it’s a message of redemption and happy endings. No matter how you’ve messed up your life with poor decisions in the past, God can set you free and give you a glorious future.

If you don’t believe me, just take a look at the story of Rahab, a prostitute living in Jericho. This woman had a history far worse than Hester Prynne. She undoubtedly had engaged in sexual relations with hundreds of men, if not thousands. Rahab must have been seen as one of Jericho’s most notorious home-wreckers.

Yet this Canaanite harlot ended up in the Hall of Fame of Faith (Hebrews 11:31) and even in the family line of both King David and Jesus (Matthew 1:5). What an amazing turnaround!

Despite growing up in a pagan environment, Rahab had heard of the God of Israel, and faith grew in her heart that He was the true God. So when Joshua sent two spies to scout out the fortified city of Jericho, she hid them on her roof and lied to the king’s soldiers about the spies’ whereabouts.

Quite the opposite of wearing a scarlet letter for her sordid past, Rahab ended up being saved by scarlet of a different kind. The spies agree to spare her life if she hung a scarlet cord from her window so the Israelites could find and protect her (Joshua 2:17-21).

Do you see what a beautiful picture this is? The scarlet cord represents the blood of Jesus that later would be shed on the cross for the sins of the world (John 1:29). Like Rahab, none of us can stand before God on the basis of our own good deeds or righteousness.

As the old hymn by Robert Lowry says:

What can wash away my sin?
Nothing but the blood of Jesus;
What can make me whole again?
Nothing but the blood of Jesus.

O precious is the flow
That makes me white as snow;
No other fount I know;
Nothing but the blood of Jesus.

Stepping into a New Day

My friend, there’s no need for you to keep wearing that scarlet letter of guilt and shame for things you’ve done in the past. This is a new day for you. When the devil comes to condemn you, you can hang the scarlet cord from your window and tell him the blood of Jesus has cleansed you, just as if you had never sinned.

By taking a step of faith, Rahab changed the whole trajectory of her life. Not only was her own life transformed, but her legacy has now impacted countless generations. I’m believing God for the same kind of transformation to happen in your life.

So go to God in prayer today and ask Him to show you whether you’ve been carrying around
a “scarlet letter” of guilt and shame because of
mistakes you’ve made in the past. If so, claim the promise of Isaiah 1:18 that God can cleanse away your sins and make them “white as snow.”

Notice that this doesn’t say, “After you’re forgiven you’ll be some shade of grey!” No, God will make you “whiter than snow,” just as if you had never sinned. So go ahead and thank Him for the blood of Jesus that makes this possible!

And be clear on this: Your Heavenly Father doesn’t just tolerate you or begrudgingly accept you. He wholeheartedly LOVES you and offers you an incredible new identity:

The Lord will hold you in His hand for all to see—a splendid crown in the hand of God.

Never again will you be called “The Forsaken City”or “The Desolate Land.”

Your new name will be “The City of God’s Delight” and “The Bride of God,” for the Lord delights in you and will claim you as His bride (Isaiah 62:3-4).

Amazing love, isn’t it? You are “God’s Delight,” and He beckons you to live your life as His beloved bride. The good news is that you can throw away your scarlet letters, once and for all.