We come into the church with a fresh, new beginning and eyes looking through the rosiest of glasses. We have seen the Scriptures and the love that dominates and shapes every relationship. At least, that is the way that we see it in the word of God. Then, we run face-first into a reality that falls far short of the ideal and the rose-colored glasses are shattered. If it just wasn’t for people…
We are thrilled as we figure out the Lord’s intentions for salvation and worship, but then we must deal with the sometimes-sloppy business of relationships. That’s where it gets complicated. Forgiveness is a concept that we joyfully, gratefully embrace. God, through the shed blood of His Son, has forgiven us of all our sins. Praise the Lord, right? Absolutely, but there is more to the picture.
“Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you (Ephesians 4:32).” Forgiveness does not stop at our door. It flows through us to those around us. Here we see one of the great challenges for sincere disciples. We quickly accept the sacrifice that Jesus made so that we might be forgiven but passing it on is another matter. The cross is a brutal reminder of just how costly our forgiveness was.
The Son of God was nailed to a cross, easy to say but terribly difficult to comprehend. How could the Father send the Son on such a mission for a world that for-the-most-part did not care and had no interest in giving up their sinful lifestyles? And now we are supposed to imitate that? If forgiveness is costly, unforgiveness is even more.
“For if you forgive others for their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.
15 But if you do not forgive others, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions (Matthew 6:14-15).” What if our willingness to forgive turned out to be a measuring stick for the Lord to use on us? It certainly seems that way from His words. Is being unforgiving an unforgivable sin?
The Dead Sea offers an object lesson from nature. Fresh water flows in but not out. So, it ends there, and the results are revealed in its name. It is dead. Fish cannot live there because it has such a high concentration of minerals. The bounty that flows in never moves on. It is terminal and snuffs out any life. Are we that way with the blessings of God? Particularly forgiveness? Does it flow in but never out? Does it stop with us?
Indeed, human relationships can be messy. We all stumble and stray out into the darkness. The prodigal parable (Luke 15:11-32) shows us the mercy and forgiveness of the Father who ran to welcome his wayward son home. The older brother was huffy. Grace and forgiveness are hard to understand. Even harder to pass on.