Forgive us our debts,

as we forgive our debtors.

Matthew 6: 12

 

Forgiveness in its totality, its width, breadth and scope, is not a very comfortable subject. Most of us don’t really want to admit that we have been wrong, and when we do know that about ourselves, we still pull back from actually seeking to admit the wrong-doing and attempting to do something positive about the harm that we have caused. If I look at my life with any sort of clarity and honesty, there are many things that I say, do, and don’t say or do that are cause for hurt or pain for others. Yet, there is not all that much that I recognize as harmful and then enter into the process of restoration with that person. This also works in reverse, for seeking out a person who has wronged me and with gentle and loving concern attempting to work through the hurt is risky and uncomfortable.

 

In our discomfort and relational fearfulness we leave behind us a debris field of hurt feelings, misunderstandings, and relationships that are tarnished and scarred as if they have been assaulted by a sandblasting machine. Jesus is speaking to this sort of interpersonal damage when He leads us into praying about forgiveness. At this point we also encounter the underlying basis for all of the tension and the strife that we create in our lives. We have done the same things to God. We are rebellious and defiant, we seek after our own way without regard for what is right, and we manipulate and control others for advantage; and we attempt to do all of this with and to God as well as to other people. We humans are just not all that pleasant to be near at times.

 

Regardless of the way that we behave and the things that we do, God continually holds out a hand of mercy and has a heart filled with loving grace. He comes to us and even follows us when we wander to the far reaches of the earth. God also sees deeply into our hearts; so, He is ready and prepared to engage with us in all matters and with every issue of relational breakage that we might need to repair. The Lord wants us to take responsibility for what we think, say, and do in our relationship with Him and with other people. He is present with us and will walk into and through all of this hard journey of self-discovery, repentance, and rebuilding of trust and respect. Christ pours out God’s grace on us, and He leads us into doing the same with others. As we know Christ and follow Him, our lives are marked by forgiveness granted before it is requested, accepted in full faith and trust of its genuineness, and sought out whenever there is a hint of hurt or harm done.

I have said these things to you to keep you from falling away.

John 16: 1

 

This world does not provide a very friendly or secure place for people to live. This is a reality that almost everyone faces. There is no protective shield or magic potion that covers us up and that keeps the evil that runs throughout the atmosphere from touching us in places that matter. Yet, in direct opposition to the forces of this world that are intent on causing hurt and harm stands Christ. He came into this world to provide the certainty and the soul-deep security that people need and desire. He, alone, stands between all that is evil and our lives. The presence of Christ in this world brings about the singular opportunity that people have to enter into a relationship with God that is permanent and absolute.

 

Yet, even for those of us who do know Christ, the forces of this world work diligently to bring about confusion and doubt. Admittedly, it is not easy to understand everything that goes on in our world or in our lives. Loss and pain are difficult to comprehend, and moral absolutes can feel very harsh or unloving. Yet, life is fond in God’s Word, and peace is enjoyed by trusting in Christ and through resting in those moral absolutes. Life is sacred, all lives are significant to God, and there are no circumstances that override these facts. People matter more than institutions, and lovingly caring for the needs of others is an important aspect of living out the Gospel of Christ. In the end, what we do and why we do it is what is important. Christ enables people to set aside fear and self-protection and enter into loving others and our world for the sake of the Kingdom of God.

 

These thoughts may seem rather disconnected, but they are a part of the way that Christ seems to be saying that He is leading me deeper into Himself. So, in that light, He is also protecting my heart and my mind from falling into the traps that this world tries to set for Christ’s followers. If I care about life, I must care for the living. If I am invested in people, I must love them regardless of where they are from, what god they worship, or differences in their language and customs. Christ holds His people close to Him. He embraces us with a holy and righteous love that leads people into service to His will. As we follow the will of Christ, we are strengthened in our capacity to resist the evil that surrounds us, and as we so resist, we grow closer to our Lord.

But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it — the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe.

Romans 3: 21, 22

 

God’s character stands above everything else in creation. In fact, it is this character that sets the standard for what constitutes rightness and righteousness in everything. The character of God is itself an expression of His nature; so, when God, Himself, is considered, absolute righteousness is what is on view. No other standard, rule, or law that has come in any sense from the hands of humans can match that exact image of the Lord, for all others are nothing more than copies or amateurish sketches that were crafted by ill-informed and shaky hands.

 

Now God’s Word, as God’s Spirit has directed it onto the page, does give us our best written facsimile. Still, it is expressed in our imperfect human language, and it requires that people engage with it out of our relationship with the Living God in order to gain our best understand of its content and direction for our lives. Also, when it comes to viewing God’s character in earthly terms, the lives of people who have been transformed by Christ in them is the world’s living depiction of God and expression of His kingdom in its glory among us on earth. God desires that all people would know Him and be in relationship with Him; so, the Father sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to live as us and among us, and Christ sent His Spirit to continue that earthly dwelling with all of us who enter into a relationship with God.

 

In Christ all that is God, His nature and character, have been made fully known to all people. I do not pretend to know exactly how this happens or the ways in which God brings His story of redemption and salvation into the minds and the hearts of every person on earth; I just accept His word when it says that He does. What I do know is that everything that is good, righteous, and holy in my experience of life has come out of and from God, Himself. I do understand that Christ produces my own goodness as He resides within me and as I am submitted to His perfect will, and I pledge my mind and my heart to seeking to know Christ more fully and to actively responding to His calling to live righteously that this knowledge and understanding produces.

In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.

Matthew 5: 16

 

Jesus is talking about a couple of important things here. Firstly, He is discussing the fact that God’s people are the enlightened members of humanity. People who have come to Christ have, in fact, come to the Father. It is this light of heaven that God gives to each of His people that provides the love, wisdom, grace, mercy, and holiness that is the essence of God’s true enlightenment. This is the light that Christ pours out through His followers in order to bring the illumination of loving truth to a world that is shrouded and infused with the darkness of sin and its death.

 

Then Jesus proceeds to embellish upon what He has said just before the verse above. The enlightenment that comes from God through Christ is not something that we hold onto and use for our own sakes. God intends for His people to be active and engaged sources of illumination as we go through our days. We are to openly and continually love others and to love God’s creation in a manner that speaks truth, grace, mercy, and comfort to all that we can reach. God does not grant us vacations from this calling, and He continually reminds us that all that He has given to us is to be used for the sake of others.

 

So, the work that we do has absolutely nothing to do with our acceptance, status, or position in God’s eyes or in the world where we live. When we respond to Christ and accept His Lordship over our lives, each of us enters into God’s calling for our life. Within that calling is this mandate to be workers whose labor is directed, empowered, and enriched by Christ so that all that we do and every aspect of who we are shines the light of glory onto God, the Father. Nothing that we do or say is for our ourselves, everything that we are is to be for the sake of others in order that they would come to know Christ and enter into the eternal light of His salvation.

Have mercy on those who doubt.

Jude 22

 

Doubt is both normal and necessary. Experiencing moments of doubt can protect us from impulsive and damaging decisions or actions. This sort of momentary doubt can cause us to seek out God’s wisdom and counsel before we take action on our own. Seasons of doubt are also natural; yet, they are very different. Have you had your doubting times? These are days when very little of what was going on in your life made sense and when confusion, disappointment, and even a sense of deep spiritual aloneness ruled your heart. If this is a part of your personal history, then you are probably in the majority among people of faith, and you are also experiencing what a multitude of people who don’t know Christ on an intimate basis do experience regularly.

 

Doubt is a tool that Satan uses to cloud people’s minds and to conceal the truth of God’s love, grace, and mercy from us. It is also a part of the path that most of us need to take in order to get from that place of partial commitment to Christ which is the starting point of most faith journeys to the ever deepening and always growing relationship that His Spirit wants to take us to. For, as we explore and deal with issues of doubt, we open up some of the hidden corners of our hearts, and we are forced to face the issues and the fears that we are hiding there. Then, the light of God’s truth has an opportunity to cleanse us of these old-self elements that are causing us so much pain and discouragement.

 

It is completely normal for us to experience these times of doubting, and each of us will encounter others who are going through such a time as well. How we choose to respond to this challenge is what matters most. Christ wants to take the doubt that we are experiencing and show us the reality of His presence in our lives. He wants us to embrace the doubter with our own confident love so that others who are in need will see tangible proof of the Lord’s direct engagement in their lives. Everyone who knows Christ has seen God’s gracious mercy first-hand, now our Lord sends us out to show that same mercy to people who need Him.