I have created this opening paragraph four different times in four different ways. Yet each time, after getting the paragraph typed into the blog creation page (even getting to two paragraphs twice), I have deleted everything I've written and started over completely from scratch. Why? Because today's topic is extremely personal for so many people!
Today, as we continue our In Christ blog series, we are talking about what it means to be forgiven in Christ. Two of my opening paragraph attempts were about historical events involving forgiveness (which lacked the "punch" needed to drive home today's point), while my other two attempts were of a personal nature that weren't quite the right thing for a public blog.
Yet the word "forgiveness" is thrown around regularly, especially in Christian circles. So why is this week's blog post such a slog to craft?
Here's the problem: sometimes, when we hear stories of forgiveness, we think "oh, that's nice," and then move on with our day. We don't fully feel the pain, abandonment, or betrayal of the victim, so we lack an understanding of just how difficult it was for the victim to forgive the offending party. (This reaction reveals (often unknowingly) a lack of understanding of the power of forgiveness.)
Yet when we are the victim of such "crimes," we don't want to give forgiveness, we want to get revenge! (Because revenge feels like justice.) Forgiving the perpetrator seems far too lenient for the harm they did to our heart. (This also unknowingly reveals we still don't understand the power of pardoning the offender.)
So to grapple with this topic, let's do this: let's take a moment to first try to understand just how horrible our sin is against a holy God, and then we might be able to grasp just how remarkable forgiveness is.
We humans usually rank sin. For instance, lying isn't particularly acceptable, but murder is far more reprehensible. And while stealing is frowned upon, sexual unfaithfulness is seen as much worse (depending on which subculture you are part of).
Now, while I would much rather have you tell a lie to my wife rather than murder her, all sin is ultimately against a holy, glorious, pure God. And the pure holiness of God can't allow even the smallest speck of sin in His presence, for this would mar His perfection, even if it is just a "small 'white' lie."
Because God is life, the very fact our human nature is born in sin means we are spiritually dead at the time of our physical birth. This spiritual truth means we are naturally condemned, separated from our holy, loving Creator. (This is why Jesus said in John 3:17 He did not come to condemn the world. We were already condemned by our sin nature!)
Yet the gospel says the story doesn't end with our sin. Jesus, through His willing sacrifice on the cross, paid the penalty we should have paid for our sin to raise us from our spiritual graves and makes us alive with Him. In other words, our sin is forgiven "in Christ." This is why John the Apostle wrote:
"I am writing to you, little children, because your sins are forgiven for his name's sake."1 John 2:12 (ESV)
It is for God's glory and joy your sin has been paid for and your spiritual debt forgiven. And when you realize just how awful your sin is against this grace-filled God, it should not only grieve you but bring you elation that His love led Him to forgive you, paying your penalty for you.
When you realize through the gospel your sin has been forgiven by your Creator, it makes it that much easier to forgive your fellow sin-stained human. That's why the Apostle Paul, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, wrote:
"Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you."Ephesians 4:32 (ESV - emphasis added)
But you are not expected to just forgive from your own willpower, strength, or wisdom. You are to forgive others with gospel motivation. The One and Only Holy God forgave you in Christ, so let His Spirit (which forgave you through your faith in Jesus) empower you to forgive others in Christ. And when you do so, you are saying you trust God to be a better judge than you, and you are freeing yourself from the weight of the other person's sin against you.
See why this post was hard to write? It can be incredibly personal. And yet, knowing you are forgiven in Christ can be so freeing and joy-filling. So no matter where you are in your journey to forgive others, may you realize the forgiveness God has given you through His Son's incredible actions on a cross so long ago.
Receive Riverwood's "News & Notes" weekly email in your inbox. Submit your email address below and stay in the loop.
We are on a mission to help people love like Jesus loved and live like Jesus lived.
It doesn't matter to us if you:
No matter where you are in your spiritual journey, we want to help you become who God has created you to be.