Forgiving Anyone

This past year I’ve had the pleasure of meeting and also getting to know a man I consider to be a friend, a loving pastor and a fellow preacher of the gospel. Father Kenneth Tanner of Holy Redeemer in Rochester Hills, Michigan, shared the following a couple days ago and I thought it’d be worth your while too.

The next time you find yourself astonished (angered, perplexed) by someone else’s sin, whether the sins of a fellow Christ follower or the sins of someone whose life is untouched by the Gospel, especially if it is a form of sin with which you perceive you have no struggle or a sin you cannot comprehend yourself ever committing, remember this:

We serve a God whose response to sin is not surprise (…or hostility or frustration) but a mysterious compassionate mercy that takes the weight of all the sins of fallen history upon himself; a God that dies for the sins of the whole world and those of every sinner; a God who identifies himself with every form of fallenness and every fallen soul on the Cross in order to defeat the scourge of death that veils his Creation and mars his eternal Image in mankind.

Put yourself on the Cross with Christ and ask him to help you understand why he loved that person (those persons) so much as to lay down his life to atone for their stiff-necked rebellions, their blasphemous denials, their greedy self-indulgences, their casual indifferences, their seething hatreds, their soul-destroying cynicisms, their mocking unbeliefs, and for all graspings and gropings to be their own god.

Then—and this is everything—turn the tables and meditate on the fact that you are the one for whom he hangs, suspended with the weight of your sin, on that torture tree.

What a wonderful, beautiful God we praise. I choose to be astonished by the person of Christ Jesus, to marvel at his character, to wonder at his mercy, to stand awestruck (if I can stay on my feet) by his love and not by anything else in all the wide world, much less by the sins of others.

Christians who have reactions to sin other than the reaction of God in Jesus Christ—a willing, merciful self-sacrifice for the good of the sinner—have not yet contemplated the limitless bounds of God’s love and are not acquainted well enough (yet) with the great chasm of their own sinfulness.

When we who are in Christ despise, condemn, ostracize or otherwise reject anyone for their sins, we make a mockery of his Cross to a watching world and, Lord help us, we fail to recognize ourselves “among the scoffers” for we are “the greatest of sinners.”

Every time I find myself reacting to the sins of others in ways that do not reflect your holy wisdom and nail-scarred love, please Lord, of your mercy, grant me a deeper share in your Cross that I may experience the depths of your charity and know myself as the one whom you came to save.

(Thanks John Stoll for the early morning conversation at The Hills Cafe that prompted this reflection.)

Gives a little insight I think into what Paul was getting at when he reminded the believers in Colossae, “Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others.”
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