I’ve thought a lot about what forgiveness looks like.
In our culture, it’s pretty brutal.
Look at just a few of the celebrities caught up in scandals of the last few years:
Paula Deen https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paula_Deen see “Racial epithet controversy”
Lance Armstrong http://time.com/2822189/lance-armstrong-forgive-oprah/
Brian Williams http://www.latimes.com/entertainment/tv/la-et-st-politicians-brian-williams-lie-20150214-story.html#page=1
Of course, you can find those who are well known who seem to have been forgiven for their transgressions and welcomed back into successful careers: Rob Lowe, Christian Bale, Hugh Grant, Chris Brown, etc.
But, when our culture decides that enough is enough, we won’t forgive. That transgression is too far. Too much. Too bad. And, we write the person off. That’s all. Until we forget.
On the flip side, what is the picture we get of forgiveness from Jesus?
In Paul’s letter to Ephesus he writes
“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will–to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding. And he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, to be put into effect when the times will have reached their fulfillment–to bring all things in heaven and on earth together under one head, even Christ. In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will, in order that we, who were the first to hope in Christ, might be for the praise of his glory. And you also were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation. Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession–to the praise of his glory.”
I think it is hard for us to accept these words as truth and let them pour over us. But, let’s try. Read this again:
In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that He lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding.
We have REDEMPTION through his blood
The FORGIVENESS of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace…
God’s word gives us further evidence of true forgiveness in Jesus’ teachings. He says in Matthew 6:14-15 For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But, if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins
Whoa. So, God’s Word teaches that we are redeemed because of Jesus’ ultimate sacrifice. He paid the price for our sins and we are forgiven. But, Jesus tells us we must forgive others. To be forgiven, we must forgive.
So, the church’s response is clear- we must forgive. We want to have this unfiltered, direct connection with God that comes through Jesus Christ. And, we are promised that connection. We are promised redemption and forgiveness and we are commanded to forgive.
It sounds simple, but forgiveness, though easy to receive, can be hard to give.