C.S. Lewis reminds us with a brief yet calm confidence that forgiveness is a lovely idea until we have something to forgive. Too often the countervailing winds of bitterness spawn the high tides of unforgiveness in our immediate lives.
Does it appear strange that many of us who are confessing Christians are unable to launch our faith in the formidable deep to forgive the perishing? Forgiveness is an unusually beautiful word which we fail to employ in times of great adversities and necessities.
How lovely is forgiveness? Forgiveness is the loveliness which surrounded Peter when he had an opportunity to interview Jesus near a rocky pathway outside of Galilee. Interestingly enough, Peter was still wet behind the ears from the waters of his faithlessness. Yet he had come to Jesus once again. Still, Peter was uncertain of the Master’s plan even after the Lord had placed it in his heart.
Peter had known the Lord’s heart but he had failed miserably to remember the Lord’s heart. Notice Peter’s initial questions before the Lord: “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me and I forgive him?” “Up to seven times?” (Matthew 18:21-22). With his legs cringing and his hands sweaty in the palms, Peter’s best pitch was answered by a swift grand slam “up” and “beyond” his reasonable and great expectations. Peter thought that his offer “up” to seven times for forgiveness was far better than that of the resident Rabbis in the countryside. Wasn’t seven times a greater proposal than the “tried and tested” three times of the Rabbis?
Jesus did answer Peter immediately. However, he carefully submitted the following proposals as a way for Peter and even for us today to see how lovely forgiveness is.
First, forgiveness is not left “up” to us solely. Why? Well, so many of us attempt daily to pigeon-hole our theologies of the ethics of the Kingdom of Christ through the limitations of our very own finiteness. The Lord responds beyond the mathematics of reasonable grace and gives more! Sarah found it strangely amusing when she laughed at God just before she was about to check into her residential living center for senior citizens when she got wind of her impending pregnancy! Amazingly, God’s portion is filled with unfathomable abundance! So, like Peter, we must step up to the plate and keep swinging and hoping that the Lord gives us a slow pitch filled with His cardinal revelations.
Forgiveness is not left “up” to us solely. Then, we notice that forgiveness is left “up” to God’s lovely mercy for us. Somewhere in the wilderness of our collective despair, we can still hear the words of yesterday’s saints saying, “His mercy suits our case.” How often do we hear Mary Magdalene rejoicing before the Lord when He had mercifully forgiven her of her venal sins.
Jesus never carried grudges. He constantly reminded His hearers and us that it is more profitable to be burden bearers than grudge carriers. Yes, just before others were ready to sign Peter’s sanatorium papers, Jesus stepped in the intemperate waters of disgust and gave His peace treaty to the grudge committee! Though eleven of His best pupils left Him weeping on a bleeding cross, Jesus said, “Forgive them for they don’t know what they are doing!” Even a Roman centurion knew for certain that there hadn’t been a face of mercy like that of the One who had not been proven guilty. We should not forget His mercy if we should fail to see how lovely His forgiveness is.
Then Jesus tells us that forgiveness is given unto us for all of us. How blind we become when we fail to share that great gift of forgiveness with others. How corrupt and tainted our Christianity becomes when we fail to give it freely and faithfully to all of humanity. How cruel it is to sell that which is given to us as if it were a commodity to be placed and shelved in the backrooms of indifference and greed!
In so many ways, Jesus tells us that Christianity is a religion of the heart embellished with the garment of forgiveness available to all of us. Strangely it is a religion that doesn’t pass those who have fallen into the crucible of life’s waste places. Indeed, this heart religion speaks forgiveness to the bruised and the broken. Indeed, this heart religion speaks forgiveness to the humbled and downtrodden who have been forgotten and taken captive by the captivity of inactivity. Paul reminded the church clearly and most astutely that his whole being moved and acted within the divine prerogative of Christ!
Resoundedly, Luther reminded the church that Christianity had become for him a “tasty religion”. He had gone deep into the wells of faith and forgiveness and tasted the cool waters of the Lord’s grace.
The story is told where a Senior Pastor had just finished preaching on forgiveness. It was during a Communion Sunday, and it included a time of sharing with the Lord’s Supper. The Pastor had asked if anyone had something to share when one of his deacons, an 87 year old man, stood up. He began, “For eighty-four years I have hated a little boy. Eighty-four years ago this little boy came riding up to me on his bike and said, ‘Ha ha ha ha, your mother is dead’. And this is how I learned my mother had died. Today I want to forgive that boy.”
Forgiveness is supremely lovely when we realize that today, right now, we have a golden opportunity to forgive everyone. God leaves it “up” to us as we decide when, where and how forgiveness will take place!
Forgiveness is supremely lovely because God is still in the forgiving business!
Forgiveness is supremely lovely because God picked up an ex-convict by the name of Moses and forgave 600,000 needy folk under his command!
Forgiveness is supremely lovely because God gathered up some leftover bread and fed 5000 hungry folk!
Forgiveness is supremely lovely because God gave us His only begotten Son, Jesus, when He stepped out of His divinity and put on the robe of humanity just for us!
Forgiveness is supremely lovely because Jesus rose up with all power in His hands!
Forgiveness is supremely lovely because it is still running freely to us from the blood-filled, sin removing cross at Calvary!
Forgiveness is supremely lovely because Jesus stretched out His arms around us!
Forgiveness is supremely lovely because it has no walls between us!
Forgiveness is supremely lovely because Jesus came to see about us!
Forgiveness is supremely lovely because it is not left up to us solely!
Forgiveness is supremely lovely because it is left up to God’s lovely mercy for us!
Forgiveness is supremely lovely because it is given unto us for all of us! Pressed down! Shaken together! Reaching up for us! Pressed down! Shaken together! Reaching up for us!

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