This week, we entered a time for Christ-followers that is traditionally referred to as “Advent,” a celebration of the arrival of Jesus, Immanuel, God with us. As with many holidays, this one has been commercialized and all but stripped of its meaning. Much of the populace has no idea that Christmas has anything at all to do with Jesus, and many of those who do know of that connection cannot say much beyond the fact that Jesus was born, and we celebrate that.
But why? Why was he born?
The driving force behind the events we celebrate as the Christmas holiday is the reconciliation of humanity to God. That’s the reason we have the incarnation, the virgin birth, the visit of the angels to the shepherds, the visit of the magi. It’s all wrapped up in reconciliation.
The God of heaven taking on flesh, enduring the passion, death, burial, and resurrection inspires nothing less than awe from an attentive humanity, and it screams at us the extent to which God earnestly desires to forgive us, and for us to be reconciled to him. It is his gift – his expression of love.
As we are increasingly conformed to the image of Jesus (Romans 8:29), seeking and setting our minds on things that are above (Colossians 3:1-2), our entire worldview changes. We move from judgment and begrudging to being Christlike dispensers of mercy, reconciliation, love, and peace. Taking our cue from the Jesus, we become conduits of grace, restoration, and renewal.
Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. – Colossians 3:12-13, ESV
So critical is this concept that Jesus makes my granting of forgiveness a foundation for my receiving forgiveness from the Father.
For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses. – Matthew 6:14-15, ESV
It is not a one-time event. The same person may sin against us repeatedly, and we forgive just as repeatedly (Luke 17:3-4). Multiple sins require multiple forgivenesses. Seventy times seven.
One may object, however, saying, “But wait! They haven’t repented of their sin. They haven’t even asked for me to forgive them.” The idea here is that one who is unrepentant or who has not asked to be forgiven exempts us from extending forgiveness.
It’s a good argument! We will look at that in next week’s blog posting.