FAITH: Taking the love of God for granted
Several times in these articles I have used the quote, “God loves you and there is nothing you can do about it!” There is so much “good news” in this truth and something we should dwell upon often. I saw another similar quote this week while traveling doing hurricane relief, “God loves you wether you like it or not!” Again, a powerful reminder and truth concerning God’s love and the fact we can do nothing to earn it or lose it. Lately, when I consider God’s love, two realities come to mind: grace and forgiveness!
Most of us are familiar with the concept of “Amazing Grace!” Even more of us are intimately familiar with the great hum of the church proclaiming God’s living, transforming, and saving grace. Even with this familiarity, none of us understand getting what we don’t deserve and not getting was we do deserve.
Forgiveness is another reality I will admit I have an academic understanding but have no real concept of how great a gift it is for those who believe and accept. To think that the creator of the universe would not only be willing to forgive us for our sin against Him, but also offer His own Son as the solution to our sin is something we cannot understand. We will never get it, but we who receive it know how it changes our life to know we are forgiven and free from sin.
What grieves me in our current cultural dynamic is what seems to be a severe lack of grace and forgiveness towards the wrongs we continue to act out on each other. Believe me, as a Christian and a pastor, I fully support the need to call wrong, wrong and sin, sin, but also as a Christian and a pastor I believe we also HAVE to forgive the wrongs done to us as God forgives the sin we commit against Him. Did you see how I used HAVE when speaking about forgiveness? I didn’t say should or it’s a good idea, we HAVE to forgive!
“Then Peter came to him and asked, “Lord, how often should I forgive someone who sins against me? Seven times?” “No, not seven times,” Jesus replied, “but seventy times seven!” Matthew 18:21-22 NLT
What is interesting to me about where this passage comes in the Gospel of Matthew is it is found right after the passage where Jesus talks about how we are to deal with conflict and hurt, especially amongst believers. Unfortunately, seldom is the Matthew 18 way of life followed today, especially in the Christian church.
Anyone who has ever been hurt in church, by a pastor or a layperson, knows there is no hurt like church hurt. The reason for this is when it comes to life in the church, we all should know better and be better and Christians should not be hurting or harming others, especially in the family of God. Here is my assertion today, if the church and Christians do not follow the directions of Jesus concerning forgiveness and conflict resolution, then why should we expect anything different from the world around us.
But Pastor Brad, you don’t know what that person did to me, you don’t know how much they hurt me, you don’t know how bad a person they are!
Well, friend, I do know how much sin we commit against the Lord and often we cheapen grace and forgiveness because the take the love of God for granted and continue to sin even when we realize how much God gave to save us. I have no idea the pain many of you have experienced at the actions and words of others, but I do know God’s Grace and Forgiveness never give up on us and never runs out.
I remind you, we have to forgive and we have to give grace. Why, because God has done this for us and commanded us to do the same. Friends, I appeal to all of us to submit to the ways of Jesus and begin modeling the ethic of the Gospel. Without practicing forgiveness and grace, we can never truly heal as a nation and we can never show the true benefit of the cross of Christ. I invite you to consider the grace of God, the forgiveness of God, and I ask you to do the same.
God’s Grace is AMAZING, but only because His FORGIVENESS is never ending.
That is Good News!
Rev. Brad McKenzie is Lead Pastor at Orange First Church of the Nazarene, 3810 Martin Luther King Jr. Drive in Orange.