Day 24: Forgive
I’m using a random word generator for my blog posts right now. The word for today is “forgive”. Forgiveness is a theme that has come up a few times recently, even when the word of the day was something else. There is a natural tendency to ask why when we experience serendipitous moments. We wonder if God or the universe is trying to tell us something. Perhaps it is our subconscious picking up on subtle clues around us. But, then again, I am a pastor and it is Lent. Forgiveness is an appropriate theme for me and the time of year.
In the Evangelical church, it doesn’t feel like we talk about forgiveness much or at least not enough. My Evangelical friends are balking as they read this. They hear the preacher open the altars and commend people to confess their sin to God and be forgiven. Although I am a Nazarene minister, I come out of the Catholic tradition, and Catholics talk about forgiveness in many ways.
The Catholic Church offers the sacrament of Reconciliation (forgiveness). In this tradition, we can confess our personal sins to God through a priest and receive absolution. Some of my Protestant friends find this offensive because, after all, only God can forgive sin.
Ironically, those are the same words the Pharisees quipped at Jesus when he publicly forgave the paralyzed man whose four friends carried him to Jesus. But Jesus is God, my friends would say in response. Yes. Jesus is God in the flesh. Fully human and fully divine. John’s Gospel says that Jesus is the Word made Flesh. He is the embodiment of God’s spoken Word. The same word that created universes.
God spoke and there was light and life and everything came into being. And the New Testament reminds us this same Jesus holds all things together (Col. 1:17). Every time I read this verse, I whisper to myself “especially when they are falling apart”. When things are falling apart, it is then that I need Someone who can hold it together. I need Someone to hold things together so that I can fall apart. I have also discovered that these times, when things are falling apart, will often involve a need for forgiveness at some point. Either I will need to forgive or I will need to ask for it.
We have limited forgiveness to this one role of one person asking God to clear their slate so they can start over. But forgiveness is so much bigger. We are trapped in a secret prison because we cannot offer it and we cannot receive it.
A few years ago. I came under great conviction about this idea of offering people absolution. Something happens when another Christ-filled Believer looks you in the eye and says, “Your sins are forgiven”. We can know it in our head, but not receive it in our heart. We need the Word spoken over us because there is life and power in the spoken word.
As Protestants, we threw out the sacrament of Reconciliation. Now our saints are stumbling around in the dark. They need to hear the Word that brings light and life and brings things into being. They need to hear the words “Your sins are forgiven” and know that God’s forgiveness is bigger than them. More so, they need to know that a Christ-filled Believer offers them forgiveness.
“…forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us…”
The theme of forgiveness keeps coming back around because I am a pastor and it is Lent. But also because there is such a great need. I mean, let’s be honest, 2020 racked up more than its fair share of trespasses. You need it, I need it, the world needs it. We all need forgiveness for debts we cannot repay and things we cannot undo.
So today, my friends, from this Christ-filled Believer, hear me say these words to you: Your sins are forgiven. Your sins are forgiven. Your sins are forgiven.
“[Christ] is before all things and in Him all things hold together”. Colossians 1:17