If what is taught by the Church as gospel truth and the sole purpose of the cross, then I believe “Yes, we do forgive better than God!”
Holy week approaches and for millions of Christians the focus will be on the sacrifice of Jesus for our sins—“Jesus died so that we might live.” We will hear from pulpits around the world that we are sinful and unclean and our sinfulness has separated us from God. God is a God of justice and justice must be served. This means that a sacrifice must be made to appease God. Since we can no longer sacrifice bulls, sheep or two turtle doves (thanks in part to P.E.T.A. and the A.S.P.C.A), Jesus had to be the sacrifice. Because Jesus died on the cross, God is satisfied. Our sinfulness is now forgiven and we can now live in a relationship with God. Maybe this does sum up the cross of Christ and Easter, but I wonder.
In Matthew 18: 21-22, Peter asks Jesus about forgiveness: “Then Peter came and said to him, “Lord, if another member of the church sins against me, how often should I forgive? As many as seven times?” 22 Jesus said to him, “Not seven times, but, I tell you, seventy-seven times.” From this passage and similar verses in the Bible, church leaders have developed the counseling mantra of forgiveness.
- • Forgiveness is an important part of the Christian life. We have been forgiven by God therefore we should forgive others (see the “Parable of the Unforgiving Servant” [Matthew 18:23-35]).
- • Withholding forgiveness is not good. Those who refused to forgive are harmed more than those who are not forgiven.
- • Forgiveness should be granted even though the other person doesn’t ask for it.
- • Followers of Jesus who forgive are able to experience more deeply the abundant and free life that God has provided for them through Jesus’ life, death and resurrection.
Whoa! Wait a minute! That isn’t how God forgives.
- • Our sinfulness and rebelliousness has really pissed God off and God has reserved certain uncomfortable places in the universe for those who do not seek God’s forgiveness. Is it unhealthy for God to hold a grudge?
- • We can’t just say that we are sorry and ask for God’s forgiveness. Someone had to pay the price. Either we had to be killed or Jesus. Thankfully Jesus said, “Yes,” to becoming the sacrifice (though he did so rather reluctantly according to the Garden of Gethsemane accounts).
- • God won’t forgive us until we ask for forgiveness. Talk about not practicing what Jesus preached!
Humankind’s sinfulness is certainly real and our need for forgiveness is valid. I wonder, though, if seeing the events of Holy Week solely from the perspective of Jesus as the sacrifice is valid. Perhaps there are more and different gospels that need to be shared and preached this Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and Easter Sunday. The broken world in which we live needs to hear more than, “You’re forgiven.”