Forgiveness is both an easy word to say and a difficult concept to understand. It is something everyone talks about, calls for, and deals with. We throw around the word for small slights—forgiving people for minor infractions like cutting us off in traffic, interrupting us when we are talking, or not saying hi to us in a social setting. We also try to forgive the deeper, painful wounds where reconciliation will not be possible or advisable. Forgiveness is an essential component of our personal and relational healing as well as the central theme of Jesus life, death, and resurrection. Our sin separated us from God so much that only the sacrifice of his Christ would bring about forgiveness for our sins. How forgiveness works every day in our lives is such a huge concept! But God gave us constant reminders that through Jesus' sacrifice, we can all be forgiven.
When Adam and Eve sinned in the Garden of Eden, they broke the world. Their rebellion against God left them expelled from dwelling with God in the garden. From that moment on, the entirety of God’s redemptive plan was about bringing us back into fellowship with him through forgiveness. The whole Bible is the story of how God set about rescuing his people. The Old Testament highlights time and time again how often humanity chooses rebellion and separation from God and to what extent God would go to in order to restore his people. Jesus’ death and resurrection were the culmination of that redemptive plan.
In the third chapter of John’s gospel, he says that God loved the world so much that he gave his only son, so that whoever believes in him would not die from their sins but receive forgiveness and eternal life. The Apostle Paul repeats this idea in Romans 10 when he says that anyone who declares that Jesus is Lord will be saved. Forgiveness is everywhere in the scripture. Forgiving us is the central theme of Jesus' life, death, and resurrection. Out of God's great love we are given healing.
When I talk to kids about baptism, I often ask them to get their hands really dirty with finger paint or dirt. Then we wash our hands and see all of the dirt washed away. The water of baptism gives us that reminder. When we are baptized our lives are symbolically marked by God. We are his chosen people, washed clean by his love for us. When we encourage people to remember their baptism years later, we encourage them to remember that they have been marked by God as his chosen and forgiven people.
When Jesus celebrated the last supper with his disciples and instituted the practice of communion for his followers, he gave them this meal to help them remember his death. Jesus' death and sacrifice on the cross was all about the forgiveness of sins. When we celebrate this sacrament together today we are remembering the sacrifice that Jesus made for us in order to bring us forgiveness. As Jesus took the cup and shared it with his disciples, he said to them that this cup was to be a constant reminder of his blood that was shed which was poured out for forgiveness. When we celebrate communion, we remember forgiveness.
As forgiven believers of God, we are called to be the body of Christ here on this earth. We are a community that is to be filled with forgiveness and reconciliation. While the church doesn’t always live up to that expectation, it is meant to be a place where everyone can find love and forgiveness in Jesus name. As we interact with others in the church, we will no doubt find that all of us fall short of God’s perfect plan for us. We are a community of sinners. But, as Christ’s body, we are called to emulate him and his forgiveness of us. Love each other. Walk alongside each other in good and bad times. Be there to help your brother and sister when they fall; expect them to be there when you fall as well. Be Jesus to each other at all times as only God’s people can be.
Knowing that we are forgiven by God changes how we live. It changes our everyday lives in that we don’t live with guilt or punishment hanging over us for what we have done. That price has been paid for us by Jesus in his death and resurrection. Our ledger has been washed clean. It also changes how we interact with each other. When Jesus teaches his disciples how to pray in Matthew 6 he tells them to ask God to forgive us as we have forgiven others. There is an expectation as forgiven followers of God that we forgive others when they wrong us. We live as forgiven people handing out forgiveness in God’s name. If you haven’t experienced the forgiveness of Jesus, he is waiting and ready to help you experience that forgiveness today. If you have someone in your life you need to forgive, Ask God to help you forgive as you have been forgiven today.
For more on the topic of forgiveness, you can check out our free Family Fire e-book on relationship repair.
Rev. Dr. Rob Toornstra
Rev. Travis Jamieson