Recently, my heart has been aching for a friend, who had told me out of the blue that she wanted distance in our friendship. Lately, she had apologized to me and mentioned that she wanted to be friends again.
My first reaction was that of pure joy, and then turned to skepticism. Was she serious about this? Could I trust what she was saying, after months of silence on her part?
My heart and my head were conflicted. My head believed in her, but my heart didn’t want to be wounded again. My heart had been sad for too long, and I felt forgiveness wasn’t something that she deserved.
John 8 tells the story of a woman who is caught in adultery and the Pharisees accuse her. They turn to Jesus, expecting Jesus to condemn her for her immoral act. Instead he surprises the Pharisees by saying, “Let anyone of who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her” (John 8:7). They all walked away, perhaps in shame, realizing that they were also sinners. The woman is left with Jesus alone, and Jesus tells her to stop sinning.
See, Jesus offers a way out of purely legalistic morality. We are sinners, but Jesus says that we don’t have to be defined by our sin, but rather by who we believe in – the Christ who has died, has risen, and will return again. If we are truly repentant, we will receive forgiveness for our sins.
Have I not made mistakes in my relationships? Have I not wronged others? Each time, I have been forgiven. I have received grace from my Heavenly Father, who knows all of my sins and yet does not condemn me.
I have been a fan of Josh Garrels, a truly remarkable Christian singer and songwriter who combines lyrical honesty with musical genius. In an interview with IN:5, Garrels is asked what word he lives by, and he offers the simple word “believe.”
Not believe in just anyone, he says, but in the one whom God has sent. Jesus Christ, an innocent lamb, who took on the weight of the world and died a painful, humiliating death. We’re created to believe in his life – the miracles that he performed, his ministry and teachings. Believe that the love that he exemplified throughout his three years of ministry is infinitely more powerful than the fashionable, knee-jerk revenge or apathy so prevalent in our culture nowadays.
To believe in God’s Son has some consequential implications for how we live. Jesus did not uphold “an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth” morality. The lamb came in with a new way of relating to others – “if you are my friend, I will lay down my life for you.” Jesus washed the feet of his disciples and ate meals with tax collectors. On the way to the cross, he treated the accusing high priests with unusual respect. Jesus lived out what he taught, and it is his patient, enduring, suffering love that led me to believe in Him.
To be followers of Jesus, then, is to throw away the goodness scorecard. Unlike Santa, Jesus does not add points when we are nice and subtract points when we make mistakes. He doesn’t only offer salvation when we’re deemed saints. No, he offers the gift of salvation to everyone who believes in Him and repents. We don’t truly deserve His gift, but He loves us with an enduring love that overwhelms and corrects our wandering, sinful hearts.
The Lord’s prayer reminds us that forgiving others is an essential Christian practice that draws us further into God’s love.
“‘Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from the evil one.’
photo credits – bandcamp.com