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"To be, or not to be: that is the question: Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, Or to take arms against a sea of troubles, And by opposing end them?" These words, from William Shakespeare's Hamlet, are well known to many. What is Hamlet saying though? Well, he is talking about the difficulty and despair of life, and if it is nobler to go on living in the despair or to end it all in suicide. This is a real struggle that Shakespeare puts into concrete words. The Christian can learn a lot from these words. We learn that, in ourselves, the burden of our sin is too great. If left to ourselves, to gain God's favor and a clean conscience by means of our noble works, we will end in the same predicament in which Hamlet found himself. When left to ourselves, to deal with our own despair and shame, we will either live this life in depression or desire to end it all and be done with it.
Shakespeare gives a worldly way of dealing with our despair. Luther, on the other hand, hands us Jesus and says, "If we allow sin to remain in our conscience and try to deal with it there, or if we look at sin in our heart, it will be much too strong for us and will live on forever. But if we behold it resting on Christ and see it overcome by His resurrection, and then boldly believe this, even it is dead and nullified. Sin cannot remain on Christ, since it is swallowed up by His resurrection. Now you see no wounds, no pain in Him, and no sign of sin. Thus St. Paul declares that "Christ died for our sin and rose for our justification.' (Romans 4:25." (Treasury of Daily Prayer 137).
What a difference between Shakespeare and Luther. Shakespeare leaves you with the only two options being a life filled with despair and shame, or death. On the other hand, Luther comforts the terrified and confused conscience with the wounds of Jesus, with the Gospel. There is another way, a way that is greater than a life of despair or suicide. There is the way of the wounds of Jesus. Our sin is not ours to deal with anymore. No. Our sin is Jesus' sin and it is His to take care of, and He does take care of it all. He took our sin and put them to death with every wound. He put our sin to death forever as He rose from the dead, and now lives and reigns to all eternity. Our sin is put to death. Our sin cannot burden us any longer and the devil can't rub our face in it. Let us not cling then to our sin, or try to deal with it on our own like Hamlet. Let us instead receive the gift of Jesus' death on the cross and be at peace knowing that all our sin is taken care of by our Lord and Savior. Be at peace. Jesus has taken your sin and exchanged it for His righteousness. May this truth comfort you this week, and when you have those moments where despair takes over, be not far from the means of grace. Let your pastor declare you forgiven anew and send you off again in joy and peace.
Peace be with you. May the devil be silenced, the world be hushed, and the Old Adam be drowned anew so that you hear only the peaceful voice of your Savior Jesus who says, "I love you. I forgive you. I claim you as My own forever," Amen.