No subject invites more push back, more dissension and more consternation than that of the topic of “Forgiveness.”
Everyone seems to be offended these days.
College students are offended that they have to pay for college. Hourly wage earners are offended they are not making $15 an hour. Democrats are offended by Republicans and vice versa. Protesters are offended by the opposition’s second amendment right to offer an opposing view. School districts are offended by students wearing T-Shirts that say God Bless America. And coffee drinkers the nationwide are offended by plain red Starbucks Coffee Cups. Just to be clear… It is not Starbucks responsibility to wish people a Merry Christmas. The responsibility is ours! People are offended because the pastor wears a robe. People are offended because the Pastor wears his shirts tucked out.
With the approaching holiday season of Thanksgiving and Christmas upon us get ready for people to be offended.
People will be offended by the fact that our country has set aside a day to offer thanksgiving to the Lord God Almighty from whom all blessings flow. No one, however seems to be offended that we have two days off from work for this annual festival of offering thanks.
People will be offended by the Annual Nativity Scene of Mary, Joseph, Shepherds, Wise Men, Cows, Lambs and the Baby Jesus – It is offensive to our world that a Savior, a Savior of the world, a man who claims to be God and claims to forgive our sins when overall we are “good” people. Julie was talking to a lady the other day who was offended that her church, on Christmas Eve last year talked so much about Jesus. “They needed to tone it down…”
It is offensive to our world to believe that a man that was crucified, dead and buried would be raised from the dead three days later and offer something to us called “Repentance, Faith, Love, Joy and Eternal Life.”
People around your dining room table will be offended. They will be offended that you haven’t called enough. That you have called too much. That you didn’t cook the turkey or the dressing or the string bean casserole or the sweet potatoes the way great grandma Eloise used to.
People will be offended that the one time we get together as family, you slept half the weekend away on the couch while the TV blared Fox News, CNN or meaningless football games.
You will offend yourself because the very people you call family, the very people you stick by and they stick by you, you will offend yourself by being so relieved when they finally do leave after what seemed to be an eternally extended stay.
And this is where our sermon topic of the day comes into play – Forgiveness.
The heart of the gospel, forgiveness is offensive. Make no doubt about it…today’s topic just might offend you.
Forgiveness Kills –
A strange title, and yet, Jesus who took on the sins of the world upon his shoulders was killed by the weight of it all. He who knew no sin, became sin so that we could become the righteousness of God.
Such an act of forgiveness kills all sense of sensibilities, kills all grounds for common sense, and defies all logical explanation and expression.
The very notion of forgiveness is offensive because it begs the question that I might have committed some act that need forgiveness.
The paralytic lies before Jesus and the tension is palpable. Can Jesus heal the man?
Of course he can but what does Jesus say first, “YOUR SINS ARE FORGIVEN!!”
The crowds love a good healing. It’s quite the spectacle. Everyone wants to see when they are blind, to walk and run when they are lame, to be clean when they are diseased.
But, Jesus’ words are offensive, and pompous. If Jesus’ first order of business is to heal the soul, then by in turn that means my soul needs cleansing and healing as well. That which I have hidden so well by my good acts, proper manners and altogether suave and debonair positioning is now threatened and therefore I am now offended by such overt, miraculous authority. The scriptures are clear, Jesus’ offensive acts of forgiveness makes the crowd afraid!
Here’s the deal.
You are forgiven, for and from everything!
Thus, we are to forgive – forgiving one another as Christ has forgiven you. We are called to pay it forward.
Let that percolate for a minute.
You and I will be hurt by other people. Not just a little skirmish. I mean our hearts will be crushed, broken, stomped on and in some instances the course of our life will be forever altered by the shameless actions of others. And the offensive part about it, as if the pain that has been leveled against me isn’t enough, as followers of Jesus, I am, we are called, and commanded to forgive.
Forgiveness kills the notion that you cannot forgive. You can with God’s help!
Forgiveness kills the idea and practice that we can hold a grudge for a long, long time!
Forgiveness kills the desire to burn bridges, but rather build bridges instead.
Forgiveness kills the existing state of estrangement and fosters reconciliation.
Forgiveness kills the power of pride and allows healing to take place between two people where one has offended the other in the most egregious of ways.
Forgiveness kills the appetite of the revengeful heart, the vengeful mind and the violent hand.
Forgiveness kills the right to strike back…
Forgiveness kills the self-serving ability to hold the bar so high for the offender that they will never be able to ascend the necessary heights or threshold to achieve your forgiveness.
Forgiveness kills selfishness and leads to Godliness.
In light of what happened in Paris on Friday night, it seems impractical, impossible, improbable and downright stupid to pray for the forgiveness of the terrorists, for they knew not what they did or maybe they did know what they were doing in destroying so many lives, families, businesses, senses of security and community.
Forgiveness kills the weight of pain, agony and hurt.
Forgiveness kills the foundation of my self-made throne of kingship and allows Jesus to sit on His throne to reign over my life, my will, my decisions and my future.
Listen to the Danish philosopher Soren Kierkegaard:
“To forgive sins is a radical, wild, gratuitous folly. Really to forgive is to do something grossly offensive: it is to move beyond the categories of moral good and evil, to declare that, yes, an evil has been done against you, but that the evil is dispelled, it is of no account. Forgiving sin however means that the forgiver is still exposed to the possibility that the offender could hurt them again. This is part of what makes forgiveness so reckless: it offers no protection against future injury. For someone really to forgive, they have to reconcile themselves to the offenses of the past and remain vulnerable to injury in the future. Most of us are too self-protective, too shrewd, too timid really to forgive. But without forgiveness we are stuck in a cycle of self-loathing and despair.”
As with Jesus, living a life of forgiveness leads to the death of a lot things only to allow for the resurrection of new life, new beginnings, new journeys, new relationships and new experiences.
It will be painful, it will be offensive, it will be seemingly impossible, and utterly irresponsible but in the end, forgiveness kills all fears… and allows enough room in our hearts to allow God to begin to do amazing work not from a place of self-imposed imprisonment but rather from a place of freedom and joy that leads to life, joy, laughter and life everlasting.
Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. (Ephesians 4: 32 ESV)
Laugh often and Fear not!