I have been thinking about forgiveness lately. I am not sure why but it has been in my thoughts and so I thought I would share some of my thinking with you.
Over the last few Sundays we have been looking at Luke's parables. We began with the parable of the Lost or Prodigal Son and how both sons stood in need of the father's forgiveness, but only one son, the Prodigal, sought it. We are not told how the eldest son responded to the father's invitation to come in and join the celebration. We do know that he did not want to forgive his brother for the shame, etc. that he had brought on the family.
Our God is a God of second, third, fourth and _____ chances. Peter asks the question in Matthew 18: “Lord, how often should I forgive?” Now, for Peter, if he forgives another seven times that is a great amount. It shows the greatness of his heart. Seven times may move beyond the expectations of his day. There were rules for just about everything, and maybe there were rules on forgiveness. But, Peter wants a number. He wants to know what is the limit of God's forgiveness. When will you stop forgiving?
Jesus' response is seventy-seven – or a number beyond comprehension. Who keeps such a record of wrongs against them? I mean, some where along the line wouldn't we forget what number we were on. Who would say, “Hey, this is the seventy-sixth time you have done this and if you do it any more you are running out of your forgiveness credits.” After that you are out of your luck. There is no more hope for you. Jesus is saying there is no limit. Forgive as you have been forgiven. How many times have we been forgiven? Do we want anyone to keep track of our sins?
God calls us to be a people of forgiveness. It is never easy. It is not supposed to be, I guess. If it was so easy we would not have needed Christ.
We all stand in need of God's forgiveness. And, if we stand in need of God's forgiveness we also know there are those we need to forgive. Words said in anger that cannot be taken back. Mistakes made—sometimes intentional and others unintentional—they still hurt us. Deeds done or not done. It doesn't matter – we need to learn how to forgive and to move forward. Restoration is a joy and reconciliation a celebration in God's kingdom.|
We often need to forgive the Church. We don't have a great record in many instances. We have caused hurt feelings, said things inappropriate, forgotten something along the way. We have fought wars in the name of faith when we needed to leave them up to God. We are not perfect, just people learning how. And, in the learning process, we fail from time to time.
However, we are called to be a people who give second chances (third, fourth and so on) and we sometimes need to be given them from you. Some receiving this may be made at the church, or someone in it for some reason. It really doesn't matter what the reason is… the question is, do we want that to hinder our relationship with God? Jesus, as he closes the prayer we call “the Lord's Prayer” adds this note of explanation, “For if you forgive others their trespasses, your Heavenly Father will also forgive you; but if you do not forgive others, neither will your Father forgive you.” (Matt.6:14-15).
If you have stopped going to worship, fellowship, etc. start again. We are both (the church and you) hurting from the brokenness of such a relationship. We are a people called to be one and it is only when we learn to forgive and accept forgiveness that we truly become one as Christ has called us to be. Come and again celebrate the joy of being together in Christ. Redeemed and forgiven!