A People of Forgiveness

Sometimes in my job I get a sneak peak of the Sunday sermon. Such was the case this week, when I was asked to read over the manuscript and find the right teasers for our marketing, such as the one above. I read the message to be delivered by Tim on Wednesday morning. I haven't been able to stop thinking about it since.

It is a message about forgiveness. It presents forgiveness, and it's integral role in our faith, in s simple and straightforward manner. But it's a concept that's anything but simple. I was deeply moved in reading Tim's words and thinking about our world. Little did I know it was a precursor to a week in which we, as Christians, would need to ask ourselves hard questions about what we believe, and about how our actions reflect those deeply held beliefs.

Forgiveness is a powerful, beautiful and necessary thing. But often those that claim to represent Jesus aren't the best ambassadors for that. That cut to the heart of the message, which looked at a passage of 2 Corinthians in which Paul exhorted the Corinthians to forgive for the benefit of the individual, and for the edification of the body.

There is no sin that cannot be forgiven. There is no point at which you can stray that you can't come back. And the church should be leading the charge to make that clear, but we often don't.

The message made me reflect on a song from Kanye West called "Jesus Walks." It's a song that I often think about because it represents a certain segment of the world, and a viewpoint of people that are in desperate need of the Gospel. There is a line that's part of the chorus that always moves me.

Kanye says, "God show me the way because the Devil's tryin' to break me down; The only thing that I pray is that my feet don't fail me now; And I don't think there is nothing I can do now to right my wrongs; I want to talk to God, but I'm afraid because we ain't spoke in so long, so long."

That section moves me because it's reflective of a man who knows he's fallen short, who wants forgiveness and to be right with God, but doesn't think it's possible? Why is that? We don't know for sure, but it's fair to wonder if that's because of the way the Gospel has been presented. He thinks he's strayed too far to come back. The Bible tells us something different.

Worse yet are the people who use the Gospel as a weapon. Part of what's dismaying about the government actions for the past week is the absence of thoughtful voices from the church. When our President was elected with a strong majority of self-proclaimed evangelicals, I posited that there would be a sense that he represented the values and ideals of our faith. It was, and is, incumbent upon those in the church to change that narrative, but it isn't happening.

Last night I watched the movie "Se7en" again for the first time in awhile. I was struck by how much the themes resonated with our current times, though it was made 21 years ago. There is a fascinating back-and-forth between Det. Sommerset (Morgan Freeman) and Det. Mills about the world.

William Somerset: I just don't think I can continue to live in a place that embraces and nurtures apathy as if it was virtue.
David Mills: You're no different. You're no better.
William Somerset: I didn't say I was different or better. I'm not. Hell, I sympathize; I sympathize completely. Apathy is the solution. I mean, it's easier to lose yourself in drugs than it is to cope with life. It's easier to steal what you want than it is to earn it. It's easier to beat a child than it is to raise it. Hell, love costs: it takes effort and work.

Apathy isn't a virtue, but it seems to be the defacto response of so many. We have witnessed unprecedented and historic protests for the last 10 days. And yet, it feels like the church has been oddly silent. How long will that persist?

At the end of this movie, which is about a religious extremist that sees no room for grace and forgiveness, who boldly pursues a plan of punishment for those he feels don't measure up. It's a perversion of the Gospel, and the film never tries to say anything else. But it's a position we've seen people take many times.

Those who've seen the film know it ends in a somewhat sad place. But those questions raised about the world and our role in it.

William Somerset: Hemingway once wrote, "The world's a fine place and worth fighting for." I agree with the second part.

The world is worth fighting for, in fact that's part of what the Great Commission is all about. We're to spread the Gospel, the Good News that there is freedom and, most importantly, forgiveness from God. How different would it be if people really felt that, and if the church really carried that message?


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