I have swept away your offenses like a cloud, your sins like the morning mist. Return to me, for I have redeemed you. — Isaiah 44:22
In 1973, four Swedes held hostage in a bank vault for six days during a bank robbery attempt became attached to their captors, a phenomenon dubbed the Stockholm Syndrome. Even though the captives themselves were not able to explain it, they displayed a strange association with their captors, identifying with them while fearing those who sought to end their captivity. In some cases they later testified on behalf of or raised money for the legal defense of their captors.
Jesus, our redeemer, has indeed swept away our offenses like a cloud and our sins like the morning mist. Two-thousand years ago when Jesus died on the cross, the walls of our prison crumbled, the doors swung open, and the chain of sin broke loose. Our rescuer stormed into this world to ransom us from our captor, sin. We were slaves to sin [Romans 6:17] but now, we have been set free from sin [Romans 6:18] through the sacrifice of Jesus the Christ.
Now here’s the really sad news. We have been held captive to our sin for so long, we have become attached to it. We rationalize our sins. We defend our sins. We begin to fear any rescue attempt by Jesus will just make matters worse. We even begin to think our rescuer must not understand our situation as it is today. We begin to sympathize with our sin and to vilify our rescuer. We become what I call Stockholm Christians.
We are ransomed. The chains of sin no longer hold us. However, we continue to hold onto the chains. Hold onto our sin. Hold onto our guilt. Hold onto our shame. The second part of securing our freedom is found in the middle of Isaiah 44:22: “Return to me.” Jesus does everything except decide for us. We must decide between our captor, sin, and our redeemer, Christ.
God will not drag us home kicking and screaming. He came here to set us free and to show us the way home. It is up to each one of us to let go of our chains and pick up our cross.
When God beseeches, “Return to me” will we respond? To what chains are we clinging? Will we let go of these chains and reach for Him?