Stumbling on a Two-Way Street

Any true understanding of the importance of forgiveness in the life of the Christian begins with an understanding of the significance of sin; because it is sin that necessitates forgiveness (1 Jn. 1:9).

This somewhat passive approach to the sins you and I commit is, I believe, a by-product of our collectively treating so casually the fact that we are sinners–violators of God’s law– as opposed to mere “mistake-makers” (Rom. 3:23). That being said, this commentary isn’t about sin, necessarily. Well, it is but, then, again, it isn’t. It’s actually about forgiveness.

 

Sin is a two-way street. There is the offender and the offended. We may not think of sin in those terms, especially in instances where we are the offended party. But the truth of the matter is that we bear the burden of responding to sin in a Christlike manner whether we play the role of villain or victim (Eph. 4:32).

Scan the moral landscape of today’s evangelical church and it is readily apparent that preaching or teaching that we sin (or, worse, that there is such a thing as ‘sin’ at all) is becoming increasingly outmoded. Oh, sure, we’ll concede that we make mistakes. Of course, we do. After all, “nobody’s perfect” right? But to suggest that we sin? Well, that’s so…so…Old Testament; so…Moses on Mount Sanai…so…judgmental and disgracious.

This somewhat passive approach to the sins you and I commit is, I believe, a by-product of our collectively treating so casually the fact that we are sinners–violators of God’s law– as opposed to mere “mistake-makers” (Rom. 3:23). That being said, this commentary isn’t about sin, necessarily. Well, it is but, then, again, it isn’t. It’s actually about forgiveness. But any true understanding of the importance of forgiveness in the life of the Christian begins with an understanding of the significance of sin; because it is sin that necessitates forgiveness (1 Jn. 1:9). If no sin has been committed, then, no forgiveness is required.

There is an irony in that, ordinarily, you and I are inclined to view forgiveness in terms of an obligatory gesture of contrition owed to us by someone who has wronged us. But there is a flip-side to forgiveness in that we should not view it solely within the context of one’s moral or ethical indebtedness to us, but as Christ did, as a gift, a benefit, a blessing to be volitionally and unreservedly bestowed on those who, like you and me, are wholly undeserving of it (Ps. 103:10Dan. 9:9Eph. 1:7Col. 3:13). As the 19th century preacher and theologian Charles Spurgeon truthfully exclaimed:

“You are nothing better than deceitful hypocrites if you harbor in your minds a single unforgiving thought. There are some sins which may be in the heart, and yet you may be saved. But you cannot be saved unless you are forgiving. If we do not choose to forgive, we choose to be damned.”

As sinners, we often find it difficult to forgive other sinners. One would think, given this universal spiritual nexus we all share, that the very opposite would be the case–namely, that forgiving those who sin against us would be easy or, at least, easier since we all share the same sin-nature (1 Kin. 8:46aPs. 14:353:3Eccl. 7:20Rom. 3:10). One of the primary reasons why we find forgiveness so arduous an undertaking is that sin is weighty (Rom. 6:231 Tim. 1:151 Pet. 3:18). It is our sin that cost the Son of God His life on the cross (Jn. 3:16Mk. 15:24-25).

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