When I was growing up I learnt that I had to say sorry when I did something bad – like taking money from my Nan’s purse or punching my brother in frustration. It was only then that I might be able to ‘make up’ or be given a handshake. I learnt that forgiveness had a price tag – me being, or at least ‘saying’ I was, sorry. What about you? Do you expect forgiveness no strings attached? Or, perhaps, a gutsier question – can you give forgiveness no matter what the other person says or does?
Christianity is so radical and un-worldly when it comes to the issue of God’s forgiveness of all our bad behaviour, thoughts and intentions. God’s plan of forgiveness is so one-sided that it seems somehow ‘wrong’. Simply stated it is un-natural: “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life …Whoever believes in him is not condemned” (John 3:16 & 18, NIV) Full pardon without any effort. Sure, Jesus chooses to die in my place but I have a clean slate without any grovelling or any ‘making up’.
I know, at first is seems like, yes! Whoa, just what I want! So easy and so satisfying – a new beginning. But trust me, sometimes it’s hard to keep coming back and asking for that free, undeserved forgiveness. I don’t have to do anything? Forgiveness is mine no matter how many times I stuff up or keep doing the same stupid things? No wonder the Church throughout the generations has found ways for me to ‘contribute’ or somehow have a part in my own state of righteousness. Whether it is by joining in the Mass & re-sacrificing Jesus at ‘the altar’ or the Protestant Work Ethic that has been twisted into statements like ‘we can’t live just by grace for God still has expectations of us’ & ‘there is such a thing as God’s justice after all’. I understand that is really hard to accept what the bible clearly teaches. But it does. And we need to do is stop and ponder the idea that we are saved by Grace. Alone.
A person becomes a Christian by God’s purposeful act of mercy. You and I only survive each day by God’s purposeful kindness. We get to try on holiness only because He makes us Holy and forgives us. Enjoying Heaven will only happen because of God’s enduring mercy – that we have never, or will ever, deserve! I hope today you are truly disturbed by the extent and power of God’s love for you.