As Christ Forgave You
Can you imagine a Liam Neeson movie where the central plotline was about his all-consuming desire (along with using his particular set of skills) to track down the bad guy who wronged him in order to end the film with a high-tension climatic scene where Liam finally catches up to the guy and then…forgives him? Yeah, me neither.
Our world loves a good revenge story. Hollywood knows they can hook us in, along with our wallets, by presenting a sympathetic character being wronged in a tragic injustice, only to spend the remainder of the film showing how the offenders finally get a heavy dose of street justice. Confession time—I enjoy these types of stories as well. However, I’m not as much concerned about the two-hour emotional roller coaster my heart is dragged along throughout these fictional movies as I am worried about how I choose to dwell on these same graceless emotions and thoughts with people I know in the real world.
After a year like 2020, many are exhausted and weary, short-fused and spent. One could have hoped the world would link arms and unite to fight this virus, this invisible enemy. Unfortunately, the ugliness of sin in the human heart turned this into an opportunity to divide us even further. Throw in a contentious election, social unrest around racial issues, and fears around a worldwide pandemic’s long-term economic impact on being able to provide for one’s family… disaster, meet recipe. Finally, as if the challenges we endured weren’t hard enough on their own, remember that opposing sides have assigned villains to blame for every one of those issues. People have experienced a traumatic year, full of injustices, and Satan relished the opportunity to sow seeds of bitterness and revenge around the world.
People have experienced a traumatic year, full of injustices, and Satan relished the opportunity to sow seeds of bitterness and revenge around the world.
When every source of information we rely on, from television to radio, from podcasts to social media, is blaring out these same messages of fear and blame, it is no real surprise that a high level of unrest and anger exists in our world right now. More confession time—on too many occasions, I let my guard down, focusing on the problems around me and allowing my heart to be swept up in this chaos. I was like Jesus’ disciple Peter when, for a brief moment, he walked on water in a storm. As long as Peter kept his eyes focused on Jesus, he was able to stay above the turbulent waters encircling him. “But when he (Peter) saw the wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink, he cried out, ‘Lord, save me’” (Matthew 14:30). Peter took his eyes off Jesus, moved his focus to the storm around him and became overwhelmed by the wind and the waves. Thankfully, just as Peter had the sense to cry out to Jesus to be rescued, we too have that option.
Jesus invites us to, “Come to Me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28). If your heart is heavy, if you are exhausted by the cycle of fear and blame, or if you’re saddened by the strife around us, Jesus invites you to come directly to Him. He offers rest and reprieve from a world that is desperately in need of a Savior.
Additionally, if you, like me, found yourself getting dragged into a place where bitterness and blame ruled the day, be thankful for His promise that, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).
God forgives us when we fail to trust Him, when we harbor anger and when we are uncharitable with others. He forgives us, NOT because we deserve it, but because He is the One who is faithful, He is the One who is just. I am so thankful that God’s forgiveness hinges on His own character and not on my ability to get to a place where I feel I have earned the right to be forgiven. He doesn’t withhold forgiveness, watching to see if we can demonstrate how remorseful and sorry we are by having a few successful days of obedience under our belts first. No, He immediately forgives us and cleanses us from all unrighteousness. What an amazing God we have.
I am so thankful that God’s forgiveness hinges on His own character and not on my ability to get to a place where I feel I have earned the right to be forgiven.
In fact, His forgiveness is not simply available because He sat back waiting for people to realize their need for Him and to say they were sorry. It was His idea the whole time. He is the one who initiated and made possible this gift of forgiveness. The book of Romans tells us that, “…God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). While we were still actively disobeying Him, still immersed in our rebellion, God sent His Son Jesus to die on a cross to pay the penalty for OUR sins. We owed the debt to God, we committed the crimes against Him, but driven by grace and love, God settled the debt at His own expense. We are simply told to, “…confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, and you will be saved” (Romans 10:9).
After experiencing mercy like this, are we entitled to withhold forgiveness? Are we permitted to hold other fallen people to a standard we ourselves fail to live by? Thankfully, the Apostle Paul answers this question for us. Let me close with those words:
“Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you” (Ephesians 4:31-32).