What We Believe: Forgiveness God’s style
Any pastor active in parish ministry has no doubt counseled a church member in the understanding, offering or receiving of forgiveness. Forgiveness of sins is what Christian faith is all about, and forgiving one another is an inevitable part of our life with others. Next month we will look at the more challenging teaching of forgiving others. For now, we look at receiving forgiveness.
Is there a crime, a sin, an offense so heinous, so hurtful that it cannot be forgiven? Many think so, even when the accusing finger points back at oneself. Perhaps even a reader of this article is feeling shame or despair over some transgression that left another person undeservedly hurt physically or emotionally, to where the guilty party cannot even forgive themselves, let alone ask God for forgiveness, or to think that God continually punishes them with new hardships over old sins.
Satan would have us think so, to keep us from receiving God’s full and total forgiveness that is available to every believer who repents. Yet Satan is a defeated enemy of God. Jesus Christ on the cross assured the forgiveness of our sins. There is no sin that Christ did not cover, or have heaped upon His shoulders in that moment of His suffering and death. To think we, or someone has so violated the Laws of God, that His mercy cannot forgive, or His only Son paid for, would be to say that Jesus’ death on the cross was not enough, that Jesus didn’t give enough, that something was left on the table unpaid. How dare we think so, in light of the excruciating pain of crucifixion, and the Word of God that teaches full forgiveness to those who put their faith in Christ. Also, to think that God allows misfortune to fall upon His children to continually punish for past sins discredits God’s total forgiveness.
It goes against our human grain though, when we see the possibility for those who have led a life of sin and crime, even taking lives, to hear the Gospel of Jesus Christ, come to faith and receive full forgiveness. Yet God’s Word reminds us that “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23). We all are born with sin in our hearts. Sin need not be stack ranked. God knows the true state of one’s repentant heart, and makes forgiveness a free gift to all who receive the Gospel. For the full verse from God’s Word reads, “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.” (Romans 3:23-24).
There is no sin that can escape God’s grace, no soul so lost that we cannot encourage with the saving Gospel and the peace and fellowship we find with God through the cross of Christ, and therefore no transgression beyond our own forgiveness when we are the party hurt by another. God’s forgiveness is always before us to be received by faith, as the Scripture says, “For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.” Jeremiah 31:34.
If you would like further dialog on what we believe, visit one of our churches or correspond with us. Our church email is firstname.lastname@example.org. Sincere comments and questions please. Our churches are: St. Paul Lutheran Church in Fredonia (672-6731), Immanuel Lutheran Church in Gowanda (532-4342), and Trinity Lutheran Church in Silver Creek (934-2002).